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

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, 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.

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.