Western pilgrims abandoned in Mina without guides or tents
Pilgrims say Motawif did not provide food, many tents lacked air conditioning, and some were rat infested
Western pilgrims using the Saudi-backed Motawif portal faced more difficulties performing Hajj this week, after they were left abandoned and forced to fend for themselves in the Saudi camp city of Mina.
Pilgrims who spoke to Middle East Eye said Motawif dropped them off in Mina on Wednesday night to perform the rites associated with the annual Hajj pilgrimage. These involve pilgrims camping in Mina before heading to Mount Arafat on Friday, as is the custom.
Pilgrims are also required to remain in a state of Ihram, whereby men wear two sheets of unstitched white cloth, and women must wear clothes that conceal their bodies, leaving only their faces and hands uncovered.
During the state of Ihram, pilgrims must refrain from getting angry.
'It's madness. Motawif allocated no tents. Our guides had disappeared. We were left on our own to sort things out'
- Yusuf, British pilgrim
But when western pilgrims reached Mina on Wednesday night, their camps were not furnished or provided with the services that Motawif had promised.
Motawif promised western pilgrims, who paid for packages worth thousands of dollars, air-conditioned tents that came fully furnished, mattresses with bed sheets, food and drinking water. But pilgrims described tents becoming overcrowded with hundreds of men and women, including many elderly and disabled pilgrims who were not provided with guides.
"It's madness. Motawif allocated no tents. Our guides had disappeared. We were left on our own to sort things out. I had to speak with Asian workers to grab some carpets and cushions," said Yusuf, a British pilgrim from Birmingham.
"The sad thing is that we'd like to concentrate on our worship, but it's difficult when you're trying to sort out somewhere to just sit."
Sulaiman, a pilgrim from Yorkshire, told Middle East Eye the situation in Mina was a "free for all" because Motawif had not split the pilgrims into different groups.
"People were put in random lines and not grouped by camps they were supposed to be in," he said. "I was lucky, as due to the confusion I got on to the bus quicker; but when we reached Mina, it was a free for all. No Motawif people allocated anything, and people took whatever tent they wanted."
Yusuf travelled to Saudi Arabia with his wife and spent at least $25,000 to go to the Hajj via Motawif. His wife told MEE that the women were allocated to a tent promised to a group from Kazakhstan and they faced similar issues to the men.
Rat-infested mattresses Farrah had come to the Hajj with her husband, elderly uncle and aunt, who uses a wheelchair. Motawif had wheelchairs and volunteers to help pilgrims, but Farrah said she received none of these services.
She described how Motawif had promised a guide to every 90 pilgrims, but they had seen none in the camps since arriving in Mina.
"I've had no food since last night, and my husband is on a very high dose of steroids and needs food, but only had a piece of bread and medicine," said Farrah. "They failed every promise, and when you contact Motawif, they send back a standard automated response.
"No one knows what to do or where to go. The time here we should be spending in worship, we are instead fighting for sofas."
Videos online showed pilgrims complaining that at least 20 tents at Mina had no air conditioning in the smouldering summer heat. However, MEE could not independently verify this claim.
One British pilgrim also posted pictures of her mattress covered in rat droppings, despite the fact she had paid for the platinum package in Mina.
Motawif also sent mixed messages to pilgrims, confusing them about when they were due to leave Mecca for Mina. Initially, Motawif gave pilgrims on the gold and silver packages an earlier departure time for Mina on Wednesday and Thursday, with platinum package holders issued a later departure time. Motawif then revised these times, but only informed pilgrims hours before their departure, creating confusion and panic.
No hotel rooms Earlier this week, western pilgrims using Motawif said their hotel in Mecca had run out of rooms, with some people given keys to rooms already occupied by other guests.
Pilgrims also told MEE last week that their Hajj packages worth tens of thousands of dollars had been "downgraded," with no offer given of partial refunds to make up the difference.
In early June, the Saudi government made a surprise decision to sideline traditional travel agencies and instead use Motawif, a government-backed portal run by an Indian company with links to the Indian government, as revealed by MEE, to carry out a lottery system.
Motawif organised a random draw that Muslims from Europe, Australia and the Americas had to go through to attend Hajj this year, set to start on 7 July.
Has Allah ever created anyone more incompetent than the Saudis? As someone who generally supports the idea of removing agents and middleman for booking hajj this is a complete joke. Why couldn't the idiots wait til next year so they could have something in place or have a transition period. They announced this change and tried to implement immediately.
In long term prices should be cheaper and clearer this way but they need to fix up like family bookings so if not have get picked at random. Il put things like no bookings or planes being full down to just poor running rather than something that be normal.
MADINAH: A total of 110,518 pilgrims from around the world on Monday arrived in Madinah during the post-Hajj season, official Saudi government figures showed.
According to the findings of a survey conducted by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, the Madinah immigration center received 101,734 worshippers who arrived by bus after performing their Hajj rituals.
A further 6,570 made their way overland to the Land Pilgrim Reception Center, with another 2,150 taking the Haramain high-speed railway.
Ministry statistics also revealed that 41,280 pilgrims left Madinah after Hajj, 7,676 of them via the Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport, and 4,828 through the reception center. Approximately 69,228 remain in the holy city.
Authorities in Madinah carried out 727 visits to assess pilgrims’ residences, launched 2,153 accommodation screening operations, guided 973 lost pilgrims at service sites, and conducted 44 field trips to check on the condition of pilgrims admitted to hospitals in Madinah. In addition, 304 field visits were undertaken to assess the performance of service providers.
Ambassadors and envoys from across the Muslim world have hailed Saudi Arabia’s hosting of Hajj this year.
Over 10 million pilgrims expected during next Umrah season
More than 10 million Umrah pilgrims are expected in the coming Umrah season, which will start on Muharram 1, 1444
MAKKAH — Hani Al-Amiri, vice president of the National Committee for the Hajj, Umrah and Visit Activities, said that more than 10 million Umrah pilgrims are expected in the coming Umrah season, which will start on Muharram 1, 1444, corresponding to July 30, 2022.
He said that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the concerned Umrah service providing companies or establishments would follow up on the cases of pilgrims, and this is in coordination with the approved company to receive pilgrims and grouping them at airports and the approved company to follow up on cases of pilgrims inside the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
Al-Amiri revealed that a number of services for the pilgrims will be activated with the beginning of Umrah season on Muharram 1. These include activation of services of the Saudi companies and establishments licensed to provide services for Umrah pilgrims, as well as the services of their foreign agents in the respective countries where from the pilgrims coming, and the work of the virtual agent of Umrah services companies and establishments for all countries.
He said that the work has been started for the B2B system for groups of foreign agents, and the B2C system for individuals, along with the operation of more than 500 Saudi companies and establishments that are licensed to provide services for Umrah pilgrims. These companies and establishments have hired qualified Saudi staff who have proved to be providing their distinguished and best ever services for the Umrah pilgrims and visitors in every season.
Al-Amiri said that there are more than 2,000 qualified foreign agents from various countries of the world approved by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. There are 34 local and international electronic reservation platforms approved by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to display packages and programs for groups and individuals in B2B and B2C systems.
The Umrah package purchase programs can be had through approved wallets accredited by the Gulf International Bank or through other payment methods such as Visa - MasterCard – Mada, and other approved electronic payment methods.
There are more than 68 companies approved by the General Syndicate of Cars to provide the transportation service for Umrah pilgrims and visitors with the latest models of buses. There are also technical companies that supply ground services linked to the operator company of the Hajj and Umrah information center.
There are also more than 1900 accommodation service providers of hotels and apartments, which are classified by the Ministry of Tourism and approved by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
Hajj Ministry’s move to permanently fix domestic pilgrims’ camp sites in Mina, Arafat
Hajj Ministry’s move to permanently fix domestic pilgrims’ camp sites in Mina, Arafat
MAKKAH - The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is exploring the prospect of permanently fixing the camps of Hajj service providing companies and establishments for the domestic pilgrims in the Holy Sites of Mina and Arafat.
The ministry started the initiative with carrying out the necessary studies in this regard and that is in coordination with the Coordination Council of Companies and Establishments for Domestic Pilgrims. The plan is to allow the Hajj service providing companies and establishments to use the camp facilities allotted to them for this year’s Hajj for the coming years too, Okaz/Saudi Gazette has learnt from well informed sources.
The ministry’s move aims to facilitate early preparations for the Hajj seasons and the completion of matters related to the allocation of camps. This will enable the Hajj service companies and establishments to work out their own operational plans in accordance with their camp facilities and bringing down expenses by not dismantling the additional camp facilities that were erected for this year’s Hajj season.
The sources indicated that when the number of pilgrims increases for the next year, additional camp sites will be allocated to the licensed Hajj companies and establishments in accordance with the percentage of the increased number of pilgrims.
Hajj Ministry cancels licenses of five erring Umrah companies
July 21, 2022
JEDDAH — The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced on Wednesday the cancellation of the licenses of five Umrah service providing companies for failure in fulfilling their obligations towards Umrah pilgrims and for violating the rules regulating Umrah services.
The ministry said that all the legal measures were taken against the erring companies, and they were referred to the competent authority to look into the violations and impose appropriate penalties against them.
The ministry noted that it is receiving all observations and complaints with regard to the services and facilities for the pilgrims and deals with them immediately to ensure that the experience of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims is unique and enriched. The services being rendered to the pilgrims shall be in accordance with the highest quality standards so as to enable them to perform their rituals in ease and comfort, stressing that it will not show any leniency toward those who are negligent of offering services for the pilgrims.
The ministry stated that it had started from Thursday, July 14, receiving requests to issue visas for pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom. The booking and getting issued permits to perform Umrah can be had for domestic and foreign pilgrims through the Eatmarna application. The new Umrah season after the annual Hajj pilgrimage season will open for pilgrims from within the Kingdom and abroad from July 30.
All the details about the requirements for issuing an Umrah visa can be had by visiting the ministry’s link: haj. gov.sa/ar/InternalPages/Umrah.
Saudi man arrested for helping Israeli journalist enter Mecca during the Hajj
The Saudi Arabian Public Prosecutor's Office announced Friday the arrest of a Saudi national who helped Israeli-American journalist Gil Tamary enter the holy city of Mecca, strictly forbidden for non-Muslims, during the recent celebration of the Hajj, Islam's holy pilgrimage.
Tamary, who has exonerated the Saudi citizen, a driver who did not know his identity while driving him to Mecca, is also being investigated by the Saudi Public Prosecutor's Office, which will take "appropriate measures", according to a statement from the Arab kingdom's security services reported by the official SPA news agency.
The Saudi Prosecutor's Office said that the reporter "crossed a route dedicated only to Muslims in an explicit violation of the laws prohibiting entry to Mecca for non-Muslims" with a view to a report for Channel 13 of Israeli television.
In his article, the journalist tells how he managed to reach Mount Arafat, the place where, according to Islam, the angel Gabriel revealed himself to the Prophet Mohammed, where he aroused numerous suspicions among the local clerics, so that he finally decided to leave the city.
Non-Muslims are completely forbidden to enter Mecca following the doctrine of a verse in the Koran that forbids polytheists from approaching the city's Great Mosque. They are also largely barred from entering Islam's second most important city, Medina, although restrictions there have been eased in recent years.
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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