( From "China Daily" of November 1,2010)
BEIJING - A total of 11,200 Chinese Muslims have already left China on chartered flights for the annual pilgrimage to the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, figures released Monday by China's State Administration for Religious Affairs indicated.
About 13,000 Chinese are expected to take part in this year's Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) on 41 chartered flights leaving from Beijing, Lanzhou, Urumqi, Yinchuan and Kunming cities, according to Yang Shuli, assistant president of China Islamic Institute.
Imams, doctors and government officials are accompanying each group of pilgrims.
The first plane took off from Zhongchuan Airport in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province, on October 18. The last plane is scheduled to leave on November 4.
China has around 23 million Muslims in more than 20 provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities, according to official statistics.
A pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed and a shrine for Muslims across the world, is a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so.