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1,600km desert trip to Makkah on bus with no AC

Around 50 UAE pilgrims face 36-hour ordeal on way to the holy city of Makkah

  • By Jay B. Hilotin, Chief Reporter
  • Published: 22:38 August 8, 2012
  • XPRESS

  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Too hot to handle: An inside picture of the bus taken by one of the pilgrims

DUBAI A group of pilgrims on their way to Makkah on a 1,600 km road trip were left seething in rage when they found their bus had no air-conditioning.

Tempers flared as the 50 odd passengers sweltered in unbearable temperatures during the 36-hour drive across the Arabian peninsula.

We have been cheated. They have packed us in a rolling oven. I am very angry. They have treated us like animals

Imtiaz, an Indian executive from Sharjah

“We have been cheated. They have packed us in a rolling oven. I am very angry. They have treated us like animals,” Imtiaz, an Indian executive from Sharjah, told XPRESS by phone from Sila’a, on the UAE-Saudi border.

The group, who paid between Dh1800 and Dh2,000, left on Monday (August 6) noon from Sharjah’s King Faisal Mosque and reached the border at 6pm.

Since most of the travellers were fasting, the lack of air-conditioning as they crossed the Empty Quarter made it worse.

“We are not asking for five-star treatment — only basic amenity like a working bus AC,” said Najeeb, who works for an Ajman-based engineering company.

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Some of the pilgrims said they booked their trip with Ajman Tours and Travels, while others booked with Al Shamsi Tours based in Ajman.

Ahmad, 35, who runs a computer business in Sharjah, said: “It’s been a horrible experience. We called the operator several times. But Shahzad, our tour guide, ditched us and hopped on to another bus that had an AC.”

The pilgrims said only the AC fan was working when they left Sharjah, but it was only blowing hot air. “We repeatedly phoned the tour operator to ask him to do something about it, but our tour guide on board, simply brushed us off,” said another passenger.

“The driver assured us the AC would kick in once we’re on the road. But it never did. We thought they will fix it along the way. But no action was taken,” he said.

At around noon on Tuesday, tour guide Shahzad returned XPRESS’ call to say that the AC on the bus was fixed at a repair shop at the border.

“The problem is sorted ... there have been no complaints since this morning,” Shahzad told XPRESS at around 2pm on Tuesday.

But Imtiyaz rubbished the claim.

“I’m angry that even now… we’re close to the gate of Makkah and they are still lying,” he said.

Amir Ali, a Dubai banker who was also on board with several of his friends, said: “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else. It’s my second Umrah to Makkah. The first time I took a plane. This time, I thought of going on a land-trip for a different experience. With no AC on my bus, it’s really different.”

Another pilgrim, Samir, 33, an Indian salesman, said: “I am really disappointed. It is the agents’ responsibility to ensure we reach Makkah with something as basic as a proper bus with a working AC. But the agent has just taken us for granted. Authorities should not allow this to happen again.”

Bus trips to Makkah from the UAE have often been under the scanner.

Most bus operators use only one driver during the 36-hour long drive, risking the safety of passengers.

“I went to one such trip a couple of years back. The driver was tired but he still drove like a maniac. I was constantly worried about my safety,” said Sharjah resident Junaid Alam.

Comments (39)

  1. Added 16:42 August 9, 2012

    Allah bear witness to what I write, even I faced a similiar situation when in scorhing summer heat a driver left us stranded on the highway fo 12 hours. The Umrah Bus had engine problems, the Driver said he will go and bring spare parts but never returned. We were 55 people in the Bus with family. We kept calling the tour organiser in Khobar and he said he could do nothing....It was only late afternoon did the highway police patrol stopped passing cars and we were given lift upto Khobar. That ordeal I still remember.

    Mohammed Mujeeb, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

  2. Added 16:23 August 9, 2012

    Its shame for the agent who is responsible for it they should not do such thing atleast with people who is going to visit Makkah.

    Rasal, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 15:57 August 9, 2012

    This should be never happen again to any other, for that the group too have some obligations. Once the group is back, they have to lodge a group complaint against the tour operators in the economics department and in the police for putting your life in danger. The media will definitely help.

    Ahmed, Ajman, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 15:51 August 9, 2012

    THIS COMPANY SHOULD BE BAN FOR EVER

    murtaza javaid, dubai, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 15:12 August 9, 2012

    The Tour companies should be fine and one-fourth of the money should be returned. If no action will be taken then such problem will likely to occur in the future. The tour company and their representative should be ashamed of themselves as they created problem for people who were fasting.

    Salman, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 14:46 August 9, 2012

    Allah will punish him.

    nazmudeen, shj, India

  7. Added 14:23 August 9, 2012

    Dear Friends, I also experienced the same thing last year. But luckily when when we entered Saudi Arabia the climate was pleasant there at that time and AC was out of order all the way from Deira-Dubai to Makkah ... Travel agents just focus on making money...and also they charged between 1600 AED to 2400 AED for the same services....

    Mohammad Zeeshan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 14:10 August 9, 2012

    I did had same experience and it is horrible. I feel good that XPRESS is coming up with such news. I really beg UAE authorities to please have a close look at this fraud. It’s very critical. I went with a company, based in Naif-with the same condition.

    Adil, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 13:57 August 9, 2012

    I hope UAE government will take proper action againt the tour operators. Put them in jail atleast one year without AC

    Anas, Doha, Qatar

  10. Added 13:51 August 9, 2012

    I JUST WOULD LIKE TO ASK CONCERNed AUTHORITIES WHAT WILL BE THEIR ACTION AGAIN SUCH TALENTED CHEATERS who EARN MONEY FROM PEOPLES ON THIS TOUR. OR THIS BUSINESS WILL CONTINUE TILL END. AND I REQUEST TO SUCH CHEATERS to STOP THESE BUSINESS IF THEY NEED MONEY I'M READY TO COLLECT MONEY FROM PEOPLES FOR THEM.

    JAHANGEER, THOBAN, United Arab Emirates

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