A record number of more than 10,500 Chinese Muslims are expected to fulfill their pilgrimages to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, according to the Islamic Association of China (IAC) Sunday.
This is the first time the figure is exceeding the 10,000 mark, said Hong Changyou, IAC vice chairman. The first group of IAC staff and doctors will leave for Mecca in early November, almost one month ahead of the pilgrimage rites, which will occur from Dec. 18-22 this year.
The number of Chinese making the pilgrimage has been rising steadily in recent years. In 2004, more than 4,700 fulfilled their pilgrimages and last year, the number has rose to 9,799.
With China's economic development, more Chinese Muslims can afford to go to Mecca for pilgrimages.
"Chinese government have improved its services to facilitate pilgrimages such as open direct flights to Medina of Saudi Arabia and add exit ports for pilgrims to five including Beijing, Lanzhou, Urumqi, Kunming and Yinchuan," Hong said.
This year, China will sent 150 working staff including medical staff to Mecca to provide services to help pilgrims, said Hong.
China has more than 20 million Muslims, mainly living in Xinjiang, Qinghai, Ganshu, Ningxia, Yunnan, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia and Henan. Since 1985, nearly 100,000 Muslims have fulfilled their pilgrimages.
(Xinhua News Agency October 21, 2007)