Muslims from throughout the globe made their approach to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to take part within the pilgrimage of hajj. Some who wished to take part on this 12 months’s ritual walked away annoyed on account of a brand new set of journey guidelines put into place by the federal government.

Hassan Shibly


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Hassan Shibly


Muslims from throughout the globe made their approach to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to take part within the pilgrimage of hajj. Some who wished to take part on this 12 months’s ritual walked away annoyed on account of a brand new set of journey guidelines put into place by the federal government.

Hassan Shibly

Saudi Arabia lastly reopened the holy metropolis of Mecca to worldwide vacationers after a two-year pause because of the coronavirus pandemic. However a brand new set of journey restrictions and working procedures produced a unique set of issues for many who wished to make the journey.

Saudi Arabia reopened the nation for 1 million folks wishing to make the 2022 pilgrimage to Mecca. About 2 million folks usually descend upon town for hajj, however officers determined to restrict the variety of members this 12 months due to the continuing pandemic.

However for a lot of, the restricted capability was not the largest impediment of their means. Saudi Arabia applied a brand new reserving system requiring prospective-pilgrims to undergo a single on-line platform, which many discovered to be tough to navigate.

Issues with the brand new reserving system

Historically, many Muslims in Western international locations corresponding to the US, the U.Okay. and Australia, make the most of journey companies to e book every part from flights and lodging to guides on the bottom. However Saudi Arabia’s new guidelines have eliminated the center man. As an alternative, folks had been required to e book their journey by way of Motawif, the only on-line platform for dealing with journey preparations for hajj.

Mahmoud Ghanem, a biochemist in Delaware, was initially excited concerning the modifications as a result of they got here with a promise that issues wouldn’t solely be cheaper, however simpler as properly.

“When the Saudi authorities introduced that they are gonna use one portal or no matter, I used to be so pleased. I informed myself, “Oh, my God, my desires got here true,'” Mahmoud stated. “Nevertheless it turned out to be a nightmare.”

He tried to e book a visit for him and his spouse to no avail. However he encountered repeated error messages every time he tried to pick out a journey bundle, which totaled almost $30,000 for the 2 of them over 10 days. He desperately reached out to Motawif, however was assured he would be capable to make the journey.

Tents set as much as host pilgrims in Mina, close to the holy Muslim metropolis of Mecca on Tuesday.

Christina Assi/AFP through Getty Pictures


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Christina Assi/AFP through Getty Pictures


Tents set as much as host pilgrims in Mina, close to the holy Muslim metropolis of Mecca on Tuesday.

Christina Assi/AFP through Getty Pictures

He lastly secured his journey preparations on June 28 and paid in full. However the next morning, after staying up all evening to organize for the journey, Ghanem received a name from Dubai telling him to not board the flight; there was no room.

“I used to be simply calling them like twice a day and like begging them prefer to get me the e-ticket, and nothing,” Mahmoud stated. “Then, ranging from July 2, I noticed on Twitter some folks getting emails telling them you’ve gotten two choices: to e book your individual flight, otherwise you cancel after which we are going to refund you and we are going to assure you a highlight for subsequent 12 months’s hajj. However I did not even get that.”

With so many individuals attempting to make the pilgrimage, he stated he would have understood if somebody had informed him he could not go. He simply wished somebody to be clear. As an alternative, Mahmoud stated he and his spouse had been strung alongside for days by representatives who assured them they might be capable to make it to Mecca.

However having seen what others have confronted upon arrival, he is truly glad they by no means made it to Saudi Arabia.

Troubles on the bottom

This 12 months’s hajj started on the night of July 7, and can finish on the night of July 12. Hundreds of thousands of individuals take part within the ritual that follows the identical steps that the Prophet Muhammad took about 1,400 years in the past yearly. Which is why a lot effort goes into guaranteeing that vacationers have what they want for what could also be a as soon as in a lifetime journey.

Having stated that, many who did make it to this 12 months’s hajj have shared their frustrations and considerations about their pilgrimage on social media.

Mohammed Nasim stated his mom and father had been capable of make the journey from the U.Okay., however solely after their journey was pushed again greater than every week. That they had initially booked a resort solely a five-minute stroll from al-Masjid al-Ḥarām, the Great Mosque of Mecca, however as a substitute discovered themselves in one other resort an hour’s stroll away.

That they had additionally been promised three meals a day, however the meals by no means got here.

“My dad and mom are each diabetic (kind 2) so consuming on time is vital,” Nasim stated. “They took just a few biscuits pondering Motawif will present meals on time on a regular basis… however they are not.”

In Mina, about 5 miles from the Nice Mosque of Mecca, tents that stretch so far as the attention can see are offered to vacationers who keep on the camp whereas performing different elements of the pilgrimage. Some share a tent with dozens of others, whereas others go for extra privateness, reserving one for simply these of their occasion.

When temperatures climb above 100 levels, air-con tends to tip from a luxurious merchandise to a necessity. And a few Twitter customers staying in Mina have stated their AC is not working, leading to insufferable dwelling circumstances.

“Our Mina tent has NO AC. We won’t breathe in these tents. It appears like an oven. Given [Instant noodles] for lunch,” one person wrote. “HELP!! We are going to die of warmth stroke.”

Others have complained that the bogs are subpar, there is a lack of ingesting water and a scarcity of English-speaking guides to point out the best way. And the overwhelming majority of these sad with their hajj expertise are pointing the finger at Motawif, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and the federal government itself.

The hajj has at all times been imperfect

Although the hajj pilgrimage is simply a one-time requirement, many Muslims make the journey a number of occasions. In keeping with Hassan Shibly, a lawyer from Florida, first-time hajj members will be each overwhelmed and unpleasantly shocked by the expertise. However for many who have been earlier than, like Shibly, this 12 months’s hajj is simply barely out of the extraordinary.

“Issues aren’t good, they’re messy, however that is at all times the case,” Shibly stated. “I have been coming to hajj since I used to be 17. It is at all times an journey, and it is at all times transformative. Even the challenges and the hardships are a part of the sweetness of the journey, our one alternative to sacrifice within the face of God within the warmth and lose the conveniences that we’re used to. You be taught to benefit from the challenges.”

Hassan Shibly does his greatest to assist as a volunteer information for first-time hajj goers. In years previous he felt his assist was helpful, however with a scarcity of guides on the bottom this 12 months, he feels his help is extra vital than ever.

Hassan Shibly


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Hassan Shibly


Hassan Shibly does his greatest to assist as a volunteer information for first-time hajj goers. In years previous he felt his assist was helpful, however with a scarcity of guides on the bottom this 12 months, he feels his help is extra vital than ever.

Hassan Shibly

This 12 months marks his seventh or eighth hajj. In years previous, he has volunteered to assist information newcomers who’re most of the time uncertain of the place to go and when. However this 12 months, he stated, his companies are extra vital than ever with the scarcity of English-speaking guides.

He admits that issues may very well be going higher. However he is additionally witnessed members of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah making their rounds gathering suggestions.

“They’re participating and receptive. That legitimately shocked me,” Shibly stated. “I believe I might have a unique view if it wasn’t for that.”

Ghanem is much less optimistic. This 12 months would have been his first hajj. He is nonetheless preventing to get his a reimbursement from this 12 months’s try and is uncertain if he needs to risked tens of hundreds of {dollars} once more subsequent 12 months.

As a twin citizen, he and his spouse can attempt to attend subsequent 12 months’s hajj by way of the Egyptian authorities. He tried to undergo them earlier than going by way of the US in June, however was informed he wasn’t chosen. However at the very least they had been clear, Ghanem stated, which retains his expectations grounded.

Regardless of all of his setbacks, he stated he stays decided to make it to Mecca. Ghanem simply needs the Saudi authorities would rethink its strategy to the hajj by making it simpler and extra inexpensive for Muslims the world over to meet their spiritual obligation.

“It must be sort of like extra of a non secular sort of occasion. The revenue must be minimal, you realize?” Ghanem stated. “Nevertheless it’s been a enterprise through the years.”





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