Hajj attracts record number of Russian pilgrims

A record number of Russian Muslims are expected to go to Saudi Arabia for this year's Hajj. Around 26,000 from across the country are heading to Mecca, including at least 500 pilgrims from Moscow.

The first plane with Russian pilgrims took off from Domodedovo airport in Moscow.  

The Saudi city of Mecca is the most holy place in Islam. And Hajj is known as the fifth pillar for every Muslim.  

“If a person can afford it, I think they should visit it at least once in a lifetime. It's the home of Allah. Also, the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed is there. With the help of Allah we will come and pray,” one of the pilgrims said.  

“I've already been there. My son was killed and now I'm going again to pray for him. Hajj was given by Allah as an order and anyone who can, must go there,” another one added.   

The three-week pilgrimage costs around $ US 3,000. However, this year 3,000 believers will go free of charge. For the first time in Russia, various Islamic organizations and the government are sponsoring Hajj trips with all expenses paid.  

Around 2.5 million Muslims are expected to go to Mecca this year.