"A portion of these pilgrims found themselves blocked at the Saudi airports and an entry point at Arar, on the border in southern Iraq," said Khaled Al-Attiya, an Iraqi official for the major Muslim rite, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP). Iraq has a quota, proportional to its size, of 27,500 pilgrims. "We are still in contact with the Saudi authorities to try and solve the problem and we hope to reach an agreement soon," said Attiya by telephone from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia allows one percent of the population of each Muslim country to perform hajj every year, in accordance with the resolution of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family. Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, once in their lifetime.
Meanwhile, Saudi officials on Tuesday announced that the deadline for pilgrims to arrive in Saudi Arabia by plane would be Wednesday, January 4, at midnight. "A fine of 200,000 Saudi riyals (53,000 dollars) will be imposed on any plane carrying pilgrims that arrives in Saudi Arabia after Wednesday at midnight," warned the Saudi Civil Aviation Association in a statement. "The Association will detain any plane that breaks this rule at the airport until the fine is paid."
The deadline for pilgrims arriving by sea was set at midnight on Tuesday, the statement said. More than 1.2 million Muslims from around the world have already arrived in Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj which begins next week. Around a million Saudi-based pilgrims were licensed to take part in the hajj. Up to 300,000 more are expected to slip into Makkah without permits. The pilgrimage, which is expected to draw up to 2.5 million Muslims this year, will begins on January 8.