DUSHANBE -- The Tajik authorities have announced that the price of the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia this year has risen to $3,348, payable in dollars only, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Mavlon Mukhtorov, a deputy chairman of Tajikistan's State Committee for Religious Affairs, told RFE/RL that this year the price of the hajj to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina had increased by $267 per person.
Mukhtorov gave two reasons for the price increase: the rising price of air tickets and a fall in the value of the somoni against the dollar.
Sharofiddin Masumov, a resident of Dushanbe, told RFE/RL that he had saved enough money for the hajj in Tajik currency but he could not immediately change it all into dollars. He said that because the somoni was losing value, he would need an additional $300 to cover the cost of the journey.
But economist Davatmurod Jumaev told RFE/RL that the decision to accept "dollars only" to pay for the hajj would cause the somoni to decline further against the dollar.
Jumaev added that Tajikistan's National Bank should check the legitimacy of this decision, because under Tajik law all financial transactions in Tajikistan should be conducted in Tajik currency.
At the beginning of last week, the exchange rate was 4.78 somonis to the dollar, but by the end of the week the somoni had fallen to 4.83.
This year's hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, falls on November 4-9. According to official data, some 5,500 Tajik Muslims plan to perform the hajj this year.