Safe passage to Mecca

Hajj 2008 Friday prayer

It's all over. The clinic has closed and it's time to go home.

It's been a busy 18 days for Ahmed. As head of consular services for the FCO's British Hajj Delegation (BHD) he has been helping a team of medics treat around 6,000 patients as they make their pilgrimage to Mecca.

Annual pilgrimage

It's one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world attracting three million Muslims to one spot, which is one of the reasons why the FCO set up the Hajj Delegation nine years ago.

At the Hajj last December Ahmed Patel and his team helped 25,000-plus British Muslim make a safe sacred journey to Mecca. Much of the job involved co-ordinating and providing  frontline consular and medical support to British citizens to Mecca. Once there, the BHD moved with the pilgrims as they travelled to the cities of Mina, Mudzalifah and Arafat where further sacred rituals are performed.

A unique operation

The UK's Hajj  Delegation is unique. It's the only operation in the Western world to give its citizens on the spot support. Other countries depend on information from the Saudi authorities, which are often stretched to the limit with the vast number of people making their pilgrimage.   

BHD prepares for the Hajj throughout the year, working with organisations, like the Civil Aviation Authority, that  makes sure all UK tour operators offering Hajj packages have an Air Travel Organiser's Licence.


At the last Hajj, the BHD team included three FCO staff and eight British doctors who worked on a voluntary basis at the field clinic in Mecca. All were deployed on the front line treating numerous casualties including many dehydrated patients and dealing with queries ranging from  finding missing friends and relatives, to caring for a psychiatric patient and helping bereaved families.  

Sounds quite heavy going but it's all in a day's work for the FCO's BHD. See for yourself in the FCO blog by Ahmed Patel, Siddiqa Hassan and Majid Ahmed, all part of the British Hajj Delegation last year!

Hajj Fact file

  • It's one of the biggest annual pilgrimages in the world, embracing some three million pilgrims
  • It's the fifth pillar of Islam and every Muslim who is physically and financially able is encouraged to perform it once during their lifetime
  • It takes place from the eighth to the twelve day of Dhul Hijjah, which is the 12th month of the Islamic calendar
  • It represents the solidarity of Muslim people and their submission to God

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