BEIRUT: Departure halls at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport were packed with Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian pilgrims as they began leaving for Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj this year.
Some pilgrims arrived at the airport six hours before their flight’s departure time in order to complete their travel procedures.
An estimated 12,000 pilgrims are set to leave Beirut by mid-August — 7,000 Lebanese, 1,500 Palestinians and 4,000 Syrians in addition to numbers of Lebanese and non-Lebanese expatriates who stop at Beirut’s airport as a transit point before they continue their journey to Saudi Arabia.
The entrances and halls of Beirut’s airport, as well as the roads leading to it, have been flooded with Hajj travelers waiting to board flights operated by Middle East Airlines (MEA) and Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia).
MEA has laid on 60 extra flights to carry pilgrims from Beirut to Jeddah and Madinah, in addition to its regular daily flights between Beirut and Saudi Arabia.
This means that MEA will have between eight and 11 extra flights a day.
Saudia, on the other hand, is operating three regular flights a day.
Some of the Syrian pilgrims said they had obtained Hajj visas while in Syrian territory, and came to Rafic Hariri International Airport with organized Hajj trips.
The Syrian pilgrims arriving from Syria, especially the elderly, looked exhausted and sat on the airport’s floor.
Many of them wished that security and stability prevail in Syria and that the brotherly ties between the Syrian and Lebanese people, as well as their countries, become stronger.
“This would benefit both countries,” they said.
A number of Lebanese pilgrims expressed their happiness to be going on “the journey of their lives,” hoping for security and stability to prevail in Lebanon and the Arab and Muslim world.
They also hoped that God would inspire Lebanese officials to unite for the sake of the supreme interest, stability and unity of Lebanon, to agree on all measures contributing to the country’s stability and security.