CAIRO - An elderly 80-year-old Saudi imam has performed the spiritual journey of hajj pilgrimage to Ka`aba 60 times, making a record that could enlist his name in the Guinness World Record book.
"There is no comparison between the hajj services today and those of the past when resources were scant," Sheikh Jabran Yahya Solaiman Al-Malki, told Saudi Gazette on Sunday, October 13.
For Al-Malki, the imam of Hiraz mosque in Al-Dair, in Jazan province to the Southwest of the Kingdom, the hajj services has developed greatly since his first hajj with his father in 1954.
He said the journey from Jazan to Makkah took him and his father two weeks to complete.
Al-Malki added at that time there were no paved roads, the cars were old and smoky, there was not enough water, food or toilets in the holy sites.
"The number of pilgrims was about 250000," he said.
We used to live in tents...We had to cross on foot the long distances between Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah.
Recalling an "exhausting experience" which he will never forget, he has strongly praised the current hajj services.
"The hajj now is a picnic thanks to the sublime services being provided to the guests of God by the Saudi government under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and his Crown Prince," he said.
Al-Malki said he had performed hajj for himself, his parents, relatives and a number of his sons who died young.
"At 80 with 60 Hajjs, the imam could well be on his way to setting a Guinness world record," the paper said.
Muslims from around the world pour to Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.
Last year a total of 3.2 million faithful, including 1.75 million foreigners from 190 countries, performed the pilgrimage to Makkah.
This year Riyadh expects about two million, after the kingdom announced a crackdown on illegal pilgrims and imposed restrictions to cut foreigners by 20 per cent and Saudis by 50 per cent.