Speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with a group of pilgrims - Presidential Palace, March 28, 1998

I guess that all of you have something to say. It is natural. But believe me that I had several meetings today. After this meeting with you I have to receive a large delegation from France. They are waiting for me now. I want to talk to you for a few hours. I hope that we shall have enough time. But you are on the way and then I have another meeting.

You are fortunate because you have a chance to visit Mecca and Medina. It is a dream of every Muslim in life. You know that, how in the past our ancestors coped with many difficulties and visited Mecca and Medina walking months or by using the transports of those times. Every Muslim experiences great changes in himself after paying this visit .You have this fortune. I am happy that you will make that pilgrimage. Here we have many pilgrims. Everybody uses his own chance. But you, a large group of citizens of Azerbaijan, will make this visit free of charge due to the care to Azerbaijan of the custodian and the two holy cities and king of Saudi Arabia Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz al- Saud. I expressed my gratitude to the representative of Saudi Arabia and again thank him together with you. I hope it will become a tradition and in the coming years they will provide this care for our country more and more. You are the first to use this chance. Have a good trip!

Once I also wished to visit Mecca and Medina. In 1994 at the invitation of my dear friend, my brother king Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz al- Saud I paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia. There I got a chance to visit all the holy places. His holiness our Sheikh -ul- Islam noted here that maintained herein, - in Saudi Arabia the doors of Kaaba were opened to me. The people with me felt extremely pleased that they could also enter inside Kaaba.

It was an enormously significant event in my life. I will never forget it. I would surely like to repeat it if I have a chance. Making pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina which I was longing for many years, became a great happiness for me. I will never forget it. Now you are lucky to have this chance. I hope that your pilgrimage will be accepted by God, you will go and come back safe and sound and serve our country, motherland and state more after your pilgrimage. Since pilgrimage invites people to many commit virtue. People after the pilgrimage perceive many things much deeper. I suppose you will feel this change yourself.

I wish you had a good pilgrimage. May you go and come back safe and sound. I wish you were always engaged in such good deeds.

Goodbye! Have a good trip!