Audience for pilgrims
By Azaraimy HH

Some 1,370 haj pilgrims were handed 'Kain Ihram' (Ihram cloth) and Telekong (prayer robes) as personal gifts from His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday.

The handing-over ceremony was handled by Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB) with cooperation from the Haj Management Department when haj pilgrims were granted an audience with His Majesty at Istana Nurul Iman yesterday.

At the audience, His Majesty was accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Hj Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister's Office.

His Majesty and HRH the Crown Prince met with the intending male pilgrims while in a separate area, Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha, together with HRH Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah and HRH Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah consented to grant an audience to the female pilgrims.

According to Yayasan, this year, a total of 1,370 Bruneians will perform the haj, comprising 677 male pilgrims and 693 female pilgrims.

Haj pilgrimage is the fifth pillar of Islam and obligatory for all able-bodied and financially-capable Muslims to perform it at least once in their lifetime.

There has been a remarkable difference to both infrastructure and experience between past and present pilgrimage due to a continuance of improvement.

The Managing Director of Darussalam Holdings Sdn Bhd told the Sunday Bulletin it had also made improvement for pilgrims taking the Delima and Safira Packages, where they will stay at a 5-star hotel at Dar Al Ghufran, Royal Dar Eiman.

Darussalam Holdings, a government-owned travel services agency, this year flew more than 60 per cent of this year's pilgrims, a total of 838 pilgrims.

The first haj flight this year will be on Oct 22 and subsequently under Darussalam Holdings, the subsequent haj flights will be on Oct 24, 25, 27 and 29. - Borneo Bulletin (10th October 2010)