Over 20,000 Russians went for hajj this year, down from 26,000 last year due to swine flu fear. Eight companies were responsible for the organization of the hajj, two – in Moscow, two – in Dagestan, as well as in Tatarstan, Ingushetia, Chechnya and the Coordination Centre of North Caucasus MuslimAround 80 percent of pilgrims were from the North Caucasus. The number of those who traveled to Saudi Arabia by plane increase – 50 percent this year. Saudi Arabia’s quota issued to Russia this year had been fully used.
|Post-Haj Russian market attracts many in Makkah |
Anwar Al-Sayed | Arab News
MAKKAH: For some pilgrims, especially those coming from the Russian Federation and Central Asia, the Haj doesn’t end after the stoning of the Satan, but continues afterward with the annual tradition of selling goods they brought to help pay for their journey of a lifetime.
Pilgrims, mostly from Russia and former Russian states, have set up more than 500 stalls in Kudai, a car park about five minutes drive from the Grand Mosque, where they are selling various products including electrical appliances, tape recorders, bedding, utensils, cookware, fashion accessories, toys, clothes and handicrafts. One can also find the occasional pistol, sword or knife on display.
Not long after the fall of the USSR, one used to be able to find a great deal of old Russian military equipment — from army clothing to night vision goggles. But today much of that has been replaced with the more typical products found in any street bazaar.
Occasionally, however, one can find merchants selling interesting items, like relatively inexpensive caviar and Central Asian hand woven rugs.
Because one never know what one might find, Makkah’s after-Haj markets are popular with the residents and people in nearby areas. They are often crowded with shoppers looking for a good deal, or simply browsing for something interesting.
Some buyers have publicized these markets on the Internet to attract more interested customers. “I ask every one not to miss these markets which are selling various products at reasonable prices,” one of them wrote on his site.
The products on sale also include leather works and verses of the Holy Qur’an written in beautiful Andalusian calligraphy using golden threads.
“Despite the spaciousness of the Kudai area, it is very difficult to find a place to display ones products because of the crowd and the competition among peddlers,” said one shopper from Makkah.
The open-air markets continue for about a month after Haj. They open daily in the mornings and the evenings. Some market analysts estimated the daily revenues of the Kudai market to be more than SR500,000.
“These Russians will make about SR15 million during the month,” said the resident. Local officials don’t seem to mind. On the contrary, the municipality cooperates with them to organize their locations in such a way as not to impede traffic or make it difficult for pedestrians to walk.
The Kudai parking lot is connected to the Grand Mosque by a tunnel and is used as an amusement park for the residents of Makkah during their leisure time because it is replete with green space.
The place also has a station for the distribution of Zamzam water where people come to take quantities of the blessed water and also to shop at the market.