- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Haj pilgrims shave each other's heads, despite health risks
- Date: 16th October 2013
- Summary: MINA, SAUDI ARABIA (OCTOBER 15, 2013) (REUTERS) PILGRIMS SHAVING THEIR HEADS VARIOUS OF MAN SHAVING PILGRIM'S HEAD WITH RAZOR PILGRIM'S HEAD BEING SHAVED MORE OF PILGRIMS HAVING THEIR HEADS SHAVED (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MOHAMMED, PILGRIM FROM EGYPT, SAYING: ''Actually I came here because of the crowd, and to shave our heads ourselves, and then to go to do our tawwaf, to do that really.'' PILGRIM'S HEAD BEING SHAVED USING A RAZOR MORE OF ANOTHER PILGRIM'S HEAD BEING SHAVED WITH A RAZOR (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) NASSIR, PILGRIM FROM YEMEN, SAYING: ''Firstly, I didn't go to a barber, because I checked to see if the razor here is clean, if it isn't then I'd go to a barber shop, and you know here it's normal, there aren't any problems. It's a new razor. (Reporter asks: Are you not concerned about diseases?) Diseases, well, really I see if the razor is new, and there are no diseases or anything like that, thank God.'' MORE OF PILGRIM SHAVING ANOTHER PILGRIM'S HAIR (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) HAMMED, PILGRIM FROM YEMEN, SAYING: ''Firstly, I don't know, this is the first time for me to come to Mecca, and I don't know where the barber shops are. I asked the policeman and he told me there (under the bridge). (Reporter asks: Are you not afraid about diseases?) Generally the razor has been sterilised, I'm like any other Muslim.'' VARIOUS OF PILGRIMS USING RAZOR BLADES TO SHAVE OTHER PILGRIMS' HEADS
- Embargoed: 31st October 2013 12:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: General,Health
- Reuters ID: LVA9PZ6O3SN6CZ76QA0XGYSRKCCA
- Story Text: Crouched on the ground under a bridge in Mina, pilgrims performing the annual haj in Saudi Arabia are having their heads shaved.
As a last step in performing the haj journey, male Muslims shave their heads while women cut a small lock of hair, a practice they believe was desired by Islam's Prophet Mohammad.
During haj, hundreds of part-time, unregulated barbers flock to the holy city of Mina to shave the heads of pilgrims in the streets, a practice that the government have tried to crack down on to limit risks of disease transfer.
Each year the kingdom's health ministry advises pilgrims to avoid shaving on the street and to only go to licensed barbers.
But many of the faithful appear unaware of the potential health risk, with some choosing to have their heads shaved away from the masses.
''Actually I came here because of the crowd, and to shave our heads ourselves, and then to go to do our tawwaf, to do that really,'' said Mohammed, a pilgrim from Egypt.
According to local media reports Saudi has bolstered the number of barbers in the region, deploying more than 100 to 'serve the pilgrims in Mina', as reported in Arab News.
Some pilgrims say they do check to see if razors are clean and new.
''Firstly, I didn't go to a barber, because I checked to see if the razor here is clean, if it isn't then I'd go to a barber shop, and you know here it's normal, there aren't any problems. It's a new razor...really I see if the razor is new, and there are no diseases or anything like that, thank God,'' said Nassir, a pilgrim from Yemen.
Other pilgrims said shaving their heads on the street was easier as they didn't know where the licensed barbers were located.
''I don't know, this is the first time for me to come to Mecca, and I don't know where there barber shops are. I asked the policeman and he told me there (under the bridge),'' said another pilgrim from Yemen, Hammed, who also added that he wasn't concerned about the potential risks of disease.
Officials from Saudi's ministry of health say it's hard to keep track of how many foreigners contract disease because of razor sharing in haj, for the simple reason that they return to their home countries after their visit and their cases cannot be studied.
Many pilgrims are given disposable razor sets as part of their haj travel kit, provided by their tour operator.
The risks of sharing razor blades could lead to pilgrims contracting blood diseases like Hepatitis B, C or D. But despite the health risks, pilgrims seem determined to continue shaving their heads - and leave the rest to God.
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