27.12.2007 Travel & Tourism

Hajj 2007 - Ghanaian pilgrims stranded, three dead

By Daily Graphic
Hajj 2007 - Ghanaian pilgrims stranded, three dead
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Two thousand seven hundred Ghanaian Muslims on pilgrimage to Mecca are uncertain about their return journey home.

Some of the pilgrims told the Daily Graphic via telephone that the members of the Interim Hajj Management Council were holding series of meetings with the airline operators on the dates for the airlifting of the pilgrims.

Sources close to the Hajj Committee said the original date for the return journey was January 7, 2008, but that date changed following the failure of the airline operators to lift the pilgrims on the first agreed date of December 7, 2007.

The sources said the Hajj Committee and the airline operators initially agreed that the pilgrims would spend about five weeks in Saudi Arabia.

However, the sources said because the pilgrims left for Saudi Arabia just when the Hajj rites started, they could not go to Madina or spend any day before the start of the pilgrimage.

The sources said now that the pilgrimage was over, the pilgrims did not understand why they should be made to spend some weeks there.
Some of the pilgrims told the Daily Graphic that they were supposed to visit Madina and spend three days there as part of the package, before they returned home.

They said however, that they were unable to go to Madina because they were not sure of the time they would be coming back home, since they were supposed to move to Jeddah.

The Ghana Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mr Rashid Bawa, was reported to have said the pilgrims would stay for six weeks but the aircraft liaison officer of the Hajj Committee, Alhaji Shams Kwakwa, refuted that claim.

He insisted that the airline operators were ready to fly the pilgrims back home on the agreed date of January 7, 2008 and that the Hajj Committee members were still having meetings with them on that issue.

Meanwhile, a source close to the Hajj Committee has confirmed to the Daily Graphic that, one of the pilgrims died on the flight from Accra to Dubai while two others respectively died in Jeddah and Mecca at different stages of the journey through natural causes.

The identity of the three are being withheld until their relatives back home are informed.

Some 2,700 Ghanaian pilgrims performed this year's Hajj. They went to Saudi Arabia after the closure of the Jeddah Airport due to the delay in the arrival of their flights.

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