Mecca, 5 Dhulhijja 1435/29 September 2014 (MINA) – The Maldivian Minister for Islamic Affairs Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said Saturday night the Hajj Corporation was targeting towards building a hotel in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to make Hajj pilgrimage cheaper for Maldivians.

“Looking towards the future, [Hajj] Corporation’s target is to establish a hotel in Mecca for Maldivians. It will be included in Corporation’s strategic plans and work will be done to make this a success. But it will take time,” said Minister Shaheem, in an interview given to a Haveeru journalist, from Mecca.

Minister Shaheem, while insisting that Hajj Corporation was not profit motivated, said that ways of bringing in income to the corporation had to be identified, in order to lower the cost of hajj pilgrimage; and noted the importance of opening doors to make Shariah-compliant investments.

Minster Shaheem said that he had been informed pilgrims were content with the services provided by Hajj Corporation, as well as private hajj corporations. Maldivian media Haveeru reported as quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA), Monday.

More than 1,000 Maldivians are participating in this year’s hajj pilgrimage, including the Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim.

Maldives is an island nation in the Indian Ocean–Arabian Sea area, consisting of a double chain of twenty-six atolls, oriented north-south, that lie between Minicoy Island (the southernmost part of Lakshadweep, India) and the Chagos Archipelago.

The chains stand in the Laccadive Sea, and the capital, Malé is about 600 kilometres (370 mi) south-west of India and 750 kilometres (470 mi) south-west of Sri Lanka.

Maldives has been an independent polity for the majority of its history, except for three periods in which it was ruled by outside forces. In the mid-16th century, for fifteen years, the Maldives was dominated by the Portuguese Empire.

The islands gained independence from the British Empire in 1965, and in 1968 became a republic ruled by a president and an authoritarian government.

The Maldives archipelago is located on top of the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean. Maldives also form a terrestrial ecoregion together with the Chagos and the Lakshadweep. The Maldives atolls encompass a territory spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 sq mi), making the country one of the world’s most geographically dispersed. Its population of 328,536 (2012) inhabits 192 of its 1,192 islands. Maldives’ capital and largest city Malé, located at the southern edge of North Malé Atoll, had a population of 103,693. (P/P011/R03)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)