More than 2,600 Chinese Muslims from northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region will begin their annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia later this month, local religious officials said Thursday.
The number traveling this year is about 200 more than that of last year, said Hei Fuli, vice chairman and secretary-general of the Islamic Association of Ningxia.
The Muslims will fly to Saudi Arabia via eight Air China charter flights between Oct. 17 and 22, and will return to Ningxia between Nov. 27 and Dec. 2, Hei said.
"Because many of them are elderly people who do not understand Arabic and have never been abroad, we are giving them some etiquette training on everyday life in another country, as well as some religious training," said Ma Shaozhong, imam of the Liming Mosque in Ningxia's city of Wuzhong.
The Mecca pilgrimage, also known as the hajj, is a Muslim religious tradition that specifies that all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to travel to Saudi Arabia must visit Mecca at least once in their lives.
China has more than 20 million Muslims, about half of which are from the Hui ethnic group. Chinese Muslims mainly live in the western provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Regions and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
More than 2.25 million Hui live in Ningxia, accounting for more than one-third of the total population of the region.