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Muslim children at a Phuket school. The island has a contented mix of people of different religions.

Mecca Pilgrimage Underway

Thursday, December 6, 2007
WHILE tourists are flocking to Phuket, hundreds of island residents are flying out for Mecca and the annual pilgrimage known as the Haj.

This year, local Muslim officials say, a total of 1540 people are catching planes to make the visit that every Muslim hopes to make at least once in their life.

It's a substantial increase on last year, when 1208 people made the journey to Saudi Arabia. Officials say numbers rise consistently each year.

Pilgrims undertaking the journey register first with their local mosques.

The first of the pilgrims flew out on November 26 and the last will leave on December 6.

This year, seven fortunate travellers had their fares and expenses paid by the Abu Dhabi Crescent Moon Association.

The association sponsors travelers each year from the donations of Middle East Muslims and this year, the names were selected at random.

Phuket has a large Muslim community ??? about one in every four residents are Muslim.

Statistically, there are 51 mosques on the island, including the tall domed one now rising over Patong.

More elaborate than any other mosque on the island, it's a mix in style adapted from Brunei, Malaysia and Jerusalem.

The project has been underway for five years and will be completed in 2008. The mosque can hold 400 worshippers and prayers are already being held there.

Phuket is also home to a smattering of Christian churches of different faiths, and even a Jewish synagogue. Hindus and Sikhs also live and worship on Phuket in sizeable numbers.

Buddhism is the main religion of Thailand.

Phuket has 37 Buddhist temples, or wats. There are 11 additional places where monks live, and one where Buddhist nuns live, at Khao Rang, plus the looming presence of the Big Buddha in Chalong.

As well, there are 16 Taoist Chinese temples, mostly around Phuket City. These are especially popular during the nine-day Vegetarian Festival each October.

The Buddhist wats are filled with images of Buddha while the Taoist temples have icons and statuettes of many gods.

That's the great breadth of the island religious experience.


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Friday February 23, 2024
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