China's Ningxia starts annual Mecca pilgrimage

GMT 11:53 2015 Monday ,31 August

Arab Today, arab today China's Ningxia starts annual Mecca pilgrimage

Mecca pilgrimage
Yinchuan - XINHUA

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, which has the largest Hui population in China, began sending Muslims on the annual Mecca pilgrimage on Monday.

A charter flight with 297 Muslims was the first group of 2,833 pilgrims from Ningxia to go on the government-organized trips to the Saudi Arabian city this year.

A total of 14,500 Chinese Muslims will take 47 charter flights on Mecca pilgrimages in 2015, according to China Islamic Association.

Prevention of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) infection will be the top concern of this year's Mecca pilgrimages, said Tian Yufu with the Ningxia Regional Administration of Religious Affairs.

Local authorities have provided the group with medicine and masks, as well as a disease prevention specialist. Checks will also be conducted before their return, according to Tian., also known as the Hajj, is a Muslim tradition that specifies all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to travel to Saudi Arabia must visit Mecca at least once in their lives.

Yang De, a retired worker from the Hui ethnic group, and his wife packed everything from steamed buns to preserved vegetables into their luggage to prepare for the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage.

"Now our children have grown up, and we've saved up enough money, so we can finally fulfill our most important duty in Mecca," Yang said before boarding the flight.

China has more than 20 million Muslims, who mainly live in the western provinces and Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Ningxia regions.

About half of Chinese Muslims are from the Hui ethnic group. Ningxia is home to more than 2.36 million Hui, about 35 percent of the the country's total Hui population.

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