Muslims in Ningxia going for Mecca pilgrimage wait to board the charter flight at Hedong Airport in Yinchuan, capital of northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Oct. 7, 2012. The first group of 332 Muslims in Ningxia going for pilgrimage in Mecca of Saudi Arabia left Yinchuan on a charter flight on Sunday. About 13,800 Muslims in China, including 2,642 from Ningxia, will go to Mecca for pilgrimage this year. (Xinhua/Peng Zhaozhi)
YINCHUAN, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- A total of 332 Muslims from northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region flew to Mecca, Saudi Arabia Sunday evening for the annual pilgrimage.
This is part of the government-organized pilgrimage tours that will carry 13,800 Chinese Muslims via 41 charter flights to the holiest city of Islam this year.
Previously, more than 2,700 Muslims from neighboring Gansu Province had flown to Mecca in eight groups.
In Ningxia, one of major regions inhabited by Muslims in China, 2,676 Islamic followers will go on the pilgrimage this year, according to Li Yushan, vice president of the regional Islamic association.
The Mecca pilgrimage, also known as the Hajj, is a Muslim religious tradition that specifies that all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to travel to Saudi Arabia must visit Mecca at least once in their lives.
China has more than 20 million Muslims, about half of whom are from the Hui ethnic group. In addition to Ningxia, Chinese Muslims mainly live in the western provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan, and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.