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Indonesian woman heads for Hajj after 26 years' saving

After collecting junks to sell for almost 3 decades, 64-year-old woman's savings meet Hajj costs, makes her dream real

Surya Fachrizal Aprianus   | 05.08.2019
Indonesian woman heads for Hajj after 26 years' saving Muslim prospective Hajj pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba at Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on August 02, 2019. ( Halil Sağırkaya - Anadolu Agency )

JAKARTA, Indonesia

After saving for 26 years, an Indonesian woman who works as a trash scavenger could finally realize her dream to go to the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina for the upcoming annual Hajj pilgrimage.

"I have always wanted to go for Hajj," Maryani, who goes by only one name, told Anadolu agency before living Saudi Arabia on Friday.

The annual Hajj pilgrimage is a religious obligation for Muslims, who must make the journey at least once in their lifetime if financially and physically able.

Considered the fifth "pillar" of the religion, the Hajj is intended to demonstrate solidarity among Muslims and their submission to Allah.

Since the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, the date of the Hajj changes each year on Western calendars.

Maryani said her desire to go for Hajj grew stronger after her husband died in the 1980s and she had been saving money since 1993.

However, at the time she didn't know how to get money for the pilgrimage as she was left widowed with four kids to raise.

"So, I started collecting the junks," said Maryani.

Since then, she worked as a scavenger at dawn, until the call to prayer at 5 a.m every morning.

The 64-year-old woman collected junks such as used plastic cups, bottles and cardboard that can be sold.

"After a heavy rain, I also collected sands to sell," she added.

As she lives right around the edge of Ciliwung River, the main river running through Jakarta, she often dug and piled sands from the river and sold the piles as building materials. She could collect at least five sandbags a day and sold them for 8,000 Indonesian rupiah ($0.56) per sack.

In 2012, after her hard work of almost two decades, Maryani's savings reached 25 million rupiah ($1,750), the minimum first payment required to register for hajj in Indonesia at that time.

Since then, she has worked hard collecting trashes and sands to pay off the remaining costs of 10 million rupiah ($699.82).

She kept the Hajj savings secret from his family and relatives for years.

Even her children didn't know that all this time their mother was collecting trashes and sands to pay for pilgrimage costs.

Maryani only notified her children in April this year, after receiving news of her departure schedule from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The neighbors who finally heard of Maryani's plan were curious about why her children let Maryani scavenge for years to go for Hajj.

"How could I help my mother, I also didn't know she collected money to leave for the pilgrimage," said one of her children, Dany Mulyana who works as a parking attendant.

Maryani admitted that 26 years was a very long period, but she said she never worried about when she will be able to go to the holy land.

"The most important thing was that I saved up. I never gave up, always full of spirit and never felt tired," she added.

Maryani did not sell the items she collected right away but sold them after piling them up for a year.

"Once sold, I would get around 1.2 million rupiah ($84) a year. I would save one million ($70) and spend the rest," she said.

As for the daily expenses, Maryani was supported by her children, most of whom are already married and live separately.

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