Hajj is the fifth and final pillar of Islam, and it is an obligation for every Muslim to undertake the pilgrimage at least once in their lives if he or she can afford it and are physically able. An average of 10,000 Muslims leave Ghana every year to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj processions. However this has not been with its own challenges and horrible experiences.
As another batch prepares to leave the country for yet another Hajj trip, find out 5 of the worst experiences pilgrims have faced in the past couple of years.
Until September 2014, pilgrims who wanted to embark on Hajj, spent uncountable nights under impoverished conditions at the airport due to delayed flights and minimal temporary housing facilities for pilgrims who had travelled from far. President Mahama had to establish what is now known as the hajj village when he took office to shelter pilgrims while they waited for their turn to be airlifted to Saudi Arabia.
Every year, the Hajj project is usually faced with the issue of transportation – in terms of adequate number of aircrafts to airlift all the pilgrims in due time. In the past, there have been reports of only two planes having to run a shuttle in transporting up to 5000 pilgrims; usually causing delays and frustration. Some pilgrims have even been removed from the holy trip at the last minute for this reason.
Reports from Saudi Arabia revealed that some Ghanaian Muslims who went for the 2015 Hajj to Mecca have fled to Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries after the holy rituals. Starr FM broke this news saying most of the Ghanaian pilgrims were aided to stay in the Middle East through unscrupulous travel agents based in Mecca.
Also last year, about 300 prospective pilgrims for the Hajj 2015 pilgrimage did not make it to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia due to challenges faced by the Hajj committee at the embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Visa applications were suspended for three days by the Saudi authorities which resulted in most of the Hajj Agents, the task force, paid pilgrims, medical staff and some government officials being left behind.
As is the norm, acquiring a passport, especially in Accra can be a very tedious and long process. Hundreds of prospective pilgrims last year were faced with this challenge when their passports took longer than expected, causing panic and fear of possible hitches in their scheduled holy trip to Mecca. A lot of the pilgrims were stranded for days at the Hajj village in Accra due to this blunder.