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Destination Jeddah!
Nigar Ataulla, Hajj Camp, Bangalore 

It is the best in India and for the Hajis proceeding for Hajj this year, it's a place which will be embedded in their memory forever for its beautiful ambience! The Hajj Camp set up by the Karnataka State Hajj Committee in the sprawling maidan of the Quddus Saheb Idgah grounds in Bangalore has become the hub for over 5000 pilgrims from all over Karnataka who have arrived here to board their direct flights to Jeddah. It is not just another camp where the pilgrims are provided with boarding and lodging. Like every year, the entrance to the maidan has been transformed into a structure replicating the minarets of the Grand Mosque at Haram in Makkah, even the intricate artistic touch with the right colours has been perfectly reproduced. Visitors will not miss to get a glimpse of the life-size illuminated hoarding of the Kaabah too which occupies centre-stage here.According to Syed Ajaz Ahamed, secretary to minister for tourism and Haj, government of Karnataka, this year the ratio of men and women pilgrims is equally divided as 50-50. "Another important improvement over last year's arrangements is that the booking of flights is done online and soon the Hajj Committee will be launching its own portal too," says minister for tourism and Hajj and Chairman of the Karnataka State Hajj Committee, R Roshan Baig. Hajis can look forward to all facilities right inside the camp-from the hospital to a tea stall, its all there under one roof. "The hospital is managed by volunteer doctors who have offered their services free of cost to the Hajis and we take care of the basic health requirements of the Hajis and only direct them to other hospitals if the case is complicated, " says Dr Fahmida Begum a retired medical officer who has been working at the hospital in the Camp. To enable the Hajis to orient themselves to the rituals during Hajj, regular discourses are organized after every prayer in the accommodation halls which are aptly called the Safa, the Marwah and the Mina Halls. The spacious halls accommodate 170 beds with separate halls equipped for storing the luggage of the pilgrims. While breakfast, lunch and dinner is a routine affair, there are enough stalls in the Camp for those who wish to eat fresh fruits. The material side aside, in Bangalore the Hajj Camp is the best part of the year when the ambience turns truly spiritual as visitors throng the Camp to see off their near and dear ones. For women it is all the better as the Camp has a large air-conditioned Mosque where they can pray with the congregation (jamaat), an opportunity which is otherwise rare to get this cosmopolitan city where only a handful of mosques permit entry of women for prayers inside the mosque. The Camp which took off with the first flight on January 27th is on till February 11 when the last flight will soar into the skies carrying with it the pilgrims towards their destination-Jeddah -from where they will be transported to the holy city of Makkah by road. q

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