Ethiopia: Council Eyeing Hajj to Boost Religious Tourism

ADDIS ABABA- Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC) disclosed that it is partnering with government organs to promote the country's age-old Islamic tourist attraction sites and rich history for Hajj pilgrims in the five- day event.

Council Hajj and Umrah Sector Head Sheikh Ahmed Yusuf told The Ethiopian Herald that all concerned bodies are making efforts to capitalize Hajj for promoting Ethiopia's deep connection with Islam in the view to boost the country's religious tourism industry.

Sheikh Ahmed noted that the Council is working with relevant bodies to encourage Hajj pilgrims from neighboring and other countries to visit Al-Nejashi Mosque and tombs of the 16 followers of the Prophet Muhammad while Turkish and Sudanese pilgrims have shown a growing interest to see the site.

The Council is also working in concert with Ministry of Culture and Tourism and other pertinent stakeholders to aware the world Muslim Ethiopia's strong ties with Islam and the rich religious tourism potentials, the Head added.

"Ethiopia is the first country to peacefully embrace Islam and allowed the adherents practice their faith free of persecution even before Saudi Arabia. It is necessary to aware the world Muslim about Ethiopia's special place in Islam."

The Head noted that Ethiopia is mentioned many times both in the Holy Quran and Hadith (Prophet Muhammad's teachings) that would ease efforts to inform the world Muslim about the country. The country's special relationship with Islam further cemented when Ethiopian woman called Baraka was in the presence during Prophet Muhammad's birth.

Sheikh Ahmed said that the Council is engaged to promote the fact that holy sites and religious festivities have laid the foundations for Ethiopia's peace, tolerance and coexistence besides their religious values for Hajj pilgrims.

Ethiopia has enormous Islamic tourist attraction sites including the Dire Sheik Hussein located in Oromia State, Jemeaa King in Amhara, King Nejashi in Tigray, and al-Kesiye in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's State; (SNNPS) many age-old mosques are also available in different parts of the country.

The Head noted that the Mawlid al-Kesiye ceremony, which is celebrated 15 days before the fasting month of Ramadan in SNNPS and other religious festivities attract the attention of many African Hajj pilgrims who use the Ethiopian Airlines to travel to Mecca.

"The world Muslims admired the presence of followers of other religions at Islamic ceremonies and we told them the huge importance these kinds of events have for sustaining the long cherished value of tolerance and mutual existence of the Ethiopian society."

Consolidated efforts are underway to preserve the mosques, shrines, educational holy places and Islamic literatures in the view to promote Ethiopia's profound attachment with Islam and boost country's revenue from religious tourism, Sheik Ahmed noted.

The Hajj is a five-day pilgrimage to Islam's holiest place Mecca, Saudi Arabia and this year it began on August 19 and lasts until August 24.

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