Additional reporting by Ahmed Naish
Hundreds of would-be pilgrims have been queuing outside Dharubaaruge since last night to submit forms to the Hajj Corporation.
The corporation began accepting application forms at 9:00am this morning.
Of the 800 pilgrim quota afforded to the Maldives by the Saudi Arabian government, 400 were reserved by the Hajj Corporation. The remaining 400 pilgrim quota are to be divided among local Hajj groups selected through a bidding process.
The bidding process for the remaining allocations was halted last week, however, as the Anti-Corruption Commission last week ordered the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to revise the criteria for awarding quotas.
As of this morning, the number of people queuing outside Dharubaaruge reportedly exceeded 400 people.
The government-owned corporation announced last week that its rates for the pilgrimage were MVR69,965 (US$4,537) per person. Maldivians who have performed the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in the past would not be eligible.
Chairwoman Dr Aishath Muneeza told the press that the corporation will accept application forms for a one week period. The selected individuals will be announced after processing the forms and verifying information, she said.
Muneeza said the corporation’s goal was to provide quality service for the 400 pilgrims.
The corporation signed an MoU with the Maldives National Defence Force earlier this year for officers to assist pilgrims during their trip to Saudi Arabia.
According to the corporation, the hotels chosen for accommodating pilgrims will have ATM machines, internet, hot and cold water, coffee and tea at all times and room service at least once every day.
Other amenities and services include loading and unloading of luggages, 24-hour religious lectures, and laundry services. The corporation said it would allow a maximum of four people in each room.
For those with long-term Hajj plans, the corporation has introduced a “saving package” which can be purchased with an initial payment of MVR500.
The clients of this package will be allowed to make the Hajj pilgrimage when 75 percent of the total payment is completed on an installment basis.
Performing the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime is one of the five pillars of Islam.