Their Majesties receive haj pilgrims at Istana
By Malek Hashim & Azrol Azmi

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pg Anak Hjh Saleha yesterday consented to receive intending haj pilgrims, who will be performing the pilgrimage in November.

Their Majesties were accompanied by HRH Pengiran Isteri Azrinaz Mazhar, HRH Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and HRH Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah.

While His Majesty and HRH the Crown Prince received the male pilgrims, Her Majesty, HRH Pg Isteri and HRH Princess Hajah Rashidah received the female pilgrims. The event was held at the Istana Nurul Iman.

Over 900 pilgrims would be performing the haj at the end of this year. They would leave Brunei to the holy city on one of the five flights scheduled on Nov 13, 15, 16, 17 and 18.

Seven travel agencies will be managing the pilgrimage, namely, Darussalam Holdings Sdn Bhd, Humairah Travel Centre (Borneo) Sdn Bhd, Titian Travel and Tours, PGGMB Travel Services, HTH Travel Agency, JB Travel and Insurance Agencies and Brunei Travel Services Sdn Bhd.

Of the seven, Darussalam Holdings Sdn Bhd will handle the most number of pilgrims. According to Hajah Nooraidah binti Pehin Penyurat Awang Hj Ahmad, personnel from Darussalam Holdings will handle 863 pilgrims.

She said the travel agency would send 17 haj officers to supervise the pilgrims at the holy cities. "Five of the officers will fly off in advance tomorrow and the rest in one of the flights together with the pilgrims," Hajah Nooraidah added.

Hajah Nooraidah also reminded the pilgrims to check in their baggage a day before their flight as instructed by the authority.

In performing the fifth pillar of Islam, the health of the pilgrims is paramount.

Dr Azlan bin Haji Jaludin, head of medical officers for the pilgrimage, said they have made preparations for the trip such as medical checks for the pilgrims to assess their fitness. "We would also be bringing medical supplies and equipment," he added.

"Altogether there will be 26 of us (medical personnel) consisting of six doctors and 20 medical staff," said Dr Azlan. Ten medical personnel would fly off in advance tomorrow followed by three to four medical personnel in every flight.

"Every year, the common diseases suffered by the pilgrims during the haj are cough, cold and fever. Occasionally, there are cases where the pilgrims suffer from contaminated lungs," said Dr Azlan.

He advised the pilgrims to take care of their health and do exercise to physically prepare themselves. "Those suffering from chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes are advised to take their medication with them to last the whole trip," added Dr Azlan.

Haji Azahari, a civil servant, said he would be performing the haj for the second time. He is going with his wife, son and daughter this time.

"With the experience and knowledge I have, I wish to help my family members in performing their haj obligation. I just wish we can perform the haj safely," said Haji Azahari who together with his family will fly off from Brunei on Nov 16.

Haji Azahari also expressed his gratitude to His Majesty for the gift of the bag, 'Ikhram' and 'Talkong', which he said shows His Majesty's care for his subjects.

Ak Ihsanudin, 28-year-old medical staff who will be performing his first haj this year, said he has made every preparation he can think of for the visit to the holy cities.

He added that he was surprised by the gift he received during the visit to the palace. "I am thankful to His Majesty for his generosity," he said.

"I have always wanted to perform the haj and now finally I have the opportunity to do it," said Ak Ihsanudin. He will be performing the haj on his own. - Borneo Bulletin (29th Oct 2008)