One of the five pillars of Islam is the pilgrimage to Mount Ararat and Mecca – the so-called Hajj. Once in a lifetime, every healthy Muslim should make this trip to Saudi Arabia, if at all possible. But after the Hajj was strictly restricted for two years due to the corona pandemic and almost impossible for believers outside the country, many people are now facing another problem: Access to the holy places is possible again, but the prices for the pilgrimage are higher significantly higher than before the pandemic.

A tour guide from Egypt, where more than 90 million Muslims live, told the BBC: “The number of bookings has dropped significantly this year. It’s just too expensive for a lot of people.” For an Egyptian pilgrim, the trip would cost around 4,000 euros. About twice as much as before. In Egypt, however, there are more far-reaching economic problems in addition to the global problem of price increases due to the Corona aftermath and the war in Ukraine: the Egyptian pound has lost around half of its value since 2022.

The BBC spoke to an elderly Egyptian woman who had saved for five years to eventually retire to attend Hajj. “All my savings are not enough for the trip. When I saw the price list, I was shocked,” she says. The pilgrimage is “a dream” for her, because “the Hajj purifies the soul.” This is how around 1.5 million pilgrims see it every year. Not everyone has been able to fulfill this dream thanks to the current crisis.

It also hit many people hard in Indonesia, one of the most populous, mostly Muslim countries. So far, the government there has subsidized Hajj trips with a 60 percent subsidy in order to make this important trip possible for all believers. This year, support was reduced to 50 percent. In total, this meant more than 500 euros more for each individual pilgrim from Indonesia compared to the previous year.

Which: BBC