Squalid, dirt-encrusted sinks, a rickety AC unit with exposed wires and a filthy hole in the ground that doubled as a toilet: This is what greeted one Brit as he embarked on the annual hajj pilgrimage.
‘Unfit for humans’
Ahmed Ali Minhas should have been setting out on the religious experience of a lifetime but was instead faced with a sub-standard hotel. (Photo courtesy: Ahmed Ali Minhas)
15-hour road to Madinah
“We were waiting three hours in the Jeddah streets in the coach… There was no water, no food, nowhere to do the salat [prayers]; we were sitting three hours in the coach.”
“Then we realized that [the tour operator] tricked us, and that he didn’t have any booking for the hotels,” said Minhas.
‘A global phenomenon’
Khalid Pervez, general-secretary of the association, said it strongly condemns the “culture of corruption and malpractice promoted by some rogue and unscrupulous travel operators”, something he added is “tightening its grip” within the travel sector.
Scale of the problem
One study in the UK – conducted between April 2014 to March 2015 – found that 81 percent of hajj tour operators surveyed were not in full alignment with regulations, ranging from minor infringements of the rules to more serious cases of fraudulent behavior.
“A lot of the… pilgrims that came forward to us had had very bad experiences… We have demonstrated in Birmingham, by our tough and vigorous stance [that] we’re seeing a reduction in serious infringements.