Every year, a large number of Muslims from the world’s 29 official French-speaking countries travel to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, which is a compulsory pilgrimage to Makkah that every Muslim worldwide must make at least once in their life.
Pilgrims from Francophone countries, especially from North Africa and France, complained about the high costs of Hajj this year.
“The price remains very very high in France. This is the darkest point concerning Hajj,” Aziz Haddou, the President of the French association for Hajj & Omra, told Al Arabiya News.
“Prices start at and can go from 5500 euros ($6279) up to 8000 euros ($9133) which makes it impossible for some people to go,” he said explaining that there are still no established measures to help French Muslims who are unable to finance the journey.
In Islam, every able-bodied adult Muslim, who can financially afford the trip, must perform Hajj, at least once in their lifetime.
Haddou added that tour agencies are using Hajj as a profit tool.
In recent years, many French-speaking pilgrims have complained and filed lawsuits against Hajj tour agencies.
Meanwhile, Morocco’s Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs seemed to echo Haddou’s concern.
Quoted by the country’s official news agency, the minister said that Moroccans are suffering from the high cost of the pilgrimage this year adding that “the increase was due to the devaluation of the Moroccan dirham against the Saudi riyal.”
This year saw a rise in the Saudi riyal exchange rate making the Saudi riyal equal to 2.55 Moroccan dirhams.
In Morocco, the total amount required for the pilgrimage is around AED 4045 ($ 1160).
But some Hajj tour agencies did not seem to be affected by the high prices complaints and managed to sell out their tickets.
“We sold almost the same number of tickets this year. However the demand was much higher than 2014,” Arielle Mace, an employee at the Paris-based Hajj tour agency “Le Pelerinage” told Al Arabiya News.
“Our agency was given 360 tickets to sell for the Hajj season and all of them were sold in a very short time,” she added.
Mace added that the number of Hajj visas granted by Saudi Arabia are reasonable and allow most of the French Muslims population who want to perform Hajj to leave for the journey.
According to the Conseil français du culte musulman (CFCM), the Saudi embassy in Paris issues approximately 25,000 Hajj visas every year for France’s Muslims.
The high prices are not preventing French-speaking worshippers from North Africa to travel and perform Hajj.
In Tunisia, around 8300 Muslims are expected to perform the pilgrimage this year, Moez Bojamil, the general manager of national services and residences, told Al Arabiya News.
Meanwhile, in Algeria, 28,800 Algerians are expected to travel to Makkah to perform Hajj, according to the general manager at the ministry of Awkaf.
This year's pilgrimage coincides with a refugee crisis in Europe after millions of asylum seekers, most of them Muslim, fled wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.