(MENAFN - Arab News) As the Eid Al-Adha holidays draws to a close, many residents across the Kingdom look back on an uplifting and relaxing few days. A large number has just completed their farewell circumambulation around the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure in Makkah toward which Muslims worldwide pray.
Hamad, an Egyptian residing in Jeddah, was among them. "My family and I performed Haj for the first time. It was a good experience and a peaceful Haj," he said.
"Five members from my family performed Haj this year. The total amount I spent was around SR 27,500. Although it was expensive, the services provided to us were great. I am happy that the Haj went really well," said Omair, a resident.
Many pilgrims were satisfied with the services of local agents who organized Haj tours. Hamza Anwar, a Pakistani residing in Dammam, expressed his happiness over realizing his dream. "The Haj tour we went with ensured us our smooth journey from Dammam to Makkah and a two-day stay in Madinah. They took care of everything during the Haj and helped us to concentrate on our prayers" he said.
Huma Ahmed, a teacher, said, "I performed Haj with my son and it was his first time. It was a spiritual journey with nothing to worry about. We were provided with all the services, from a comfortable stay to nice food."
As the cost of pilgrimage for Kingdom residents was high this year, many illegal pilgrims made the journey and resided in camps throughout the Haj. Others managed to pay the amount.
Resident Ahmed Ali said he hoped for a cut in the cost of Haj next year, so the great majority of people whose earnings are low can afford to go. "Yet, there are people who paid thousands and received bad services, which affected their stay during the Haj," he said.
Many people struggled to reconcile their spiritual needs with their wallets. "I pray that everyone gets to perform Haj once in their lifetime," said Zayan.
Many of those who did not perform Haj, chose to travel to Madinah during Eid Al-Adha holidays. The crowd in the holy city reduced drastically by Sunday evening as most holidaymakers returned home, leaving the city to get ready and embrace another wave of pilgrims from Makkah after completion of Haj.
The road toward Jeddah was crowded with departing vehicles and there was a rush for taxis and SAPTCO buses going to Riyadh, Dammam and other cities. No seats will be available on Saudia airlines flights from Jeddah to Riyadh for the next six days.
Hill station Taif, a popular holiday destination about 130 kilometers from Jeddah, drew visitors from the Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. Faruq Islam, front office manager of Ramadah Hotel, said the hotel would be fully occupied until Thursday.
At the Corniche in Jeddah, marking the Red Sea coastline, the sidewalk is densely packed with visitors while the smoke from barbecues pits leaves blue clouds for miles. Near the "floating mosque" one can hardly find space to sit down in the evening hours. Public parks across the city are packed with expatriates families until the late night hours and large amounts of garbage, empty bottles and food packets, are piling up, despite the intensive efforts of Jeddah Municipality.