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Bohras rush to book tickets after Syedna chooses Dares Salaam as Moharram discourse venue

Jyoti Shelar
Mumbai Mirror, Times Group – India

It has only been a week since the Bohra community's spiritual head, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, identified Dares Salaam in Tanzania as the venue for his annual 10-day Moharram waaz or discourse, but the ensuing period has seen community members making a beeline for travel agencies, trying to ensure that their travel plans are sorted.

The daily set of discourses, which is set to begin on October 3- a day after the beginning of Muharram, the first month of the Muslim calendar- is usually attended by more than one lakh people from across the world, with the religious from India forming the major chunk.

"Since the last 20 years, I have missed only three to four sermons. My 13 year old son has not missed a single waaz so far," said Murtaza Shakir, a businessman from Mazgaon.

"The reason I follow Syedna every year is because the experience is enriching, it reinforces my faith and keeps me captivated. I will be happy if my children continue this," said Murtaza Vajihi, a resident of Fort.

The festival, on the first 10 days of the Muslim calendar month of Muharram, is a period of maatam or mourning. Observed by Shia muslims across the globe, it marks the martyrdom of Imam Husain, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, in the battle of Karbala.

Although the believers get help in charting out their schedules, the venue announcement, like every year, has caused a frenzy with flight ticket rates to Dares Salaam shooting through the roof.

"Ticket prices which usually hover anywhere between Rs 32,000 and Rs 36,000 suddenly shot up to around Rs 90,000. Two airlines have arranged chartered flights for the community, the tickets for which range between Rs 55,000 to Rs 65,000," said a travel agent from the city.

Syedna holds the waaz at different venues every year with the Bohra jamiats or groups, from across the world, requesting him to select their city as the host.

"When they send their requests, it means that they are sure that they have the facilities to support the requirements of the gathering. This includes the local travel of visitors between their place of accommodation and the venue, and also their meals," said a community member, who added that this year, groups from Surat, Indore, Sidhpur, Mumbai and Dares Salaam had sent across their requests to play host for this year's event.
The final decision is taken by the Syedna after much prayer and thinking.

For Tardeo resident Taher Raghib, attending the waaz provides a 'sense of contentment' and emphasizes on the basic tenets of life. "Our Syedna even asks us to go around and do some sight seeing after the 10 days of mourning. Many people who never travel abroad otherwise have a good experience," said Raghib, who has not missed the waaz for the past 15 years.