Saudi Arabia says 1,301 people died during Hajj this year, prompting Egypt to crack down on companies offering illegal pilgrimages


The Egyptian government 16 will cancel the licences Hajj tourism Companies and company managers involved in illegal pilgrimages to Mecca are being referred to prosecutors amid fears that hundreds of Egyptians may be among the more than 1,300 who have died during this year’s hajj.

Egypt’s decision – taken at a cabinet meeting on Saturday after a report highlighted suspicions about how some tourism companies operate – comes after Saudi Arabian officials said a total of 1,301 pilgrims had died during this year’s hajj. According to Saudi officials, 83% of those who died were on unauthorized trips and had to walk long distances in direct sunlight without adequate shelter or comfort.

The official death toll among Egyptians is 31, but Reuters and other publications put the death toll at between 500 and 600 Egyptians during the pilgrimage.

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Muslim pilgrims perform the farewell circumambulation, or “tawaf,” around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, seven times at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca.

The report, which was reviewed by Cabinet, said some operators did not issue valid visas, so holders could not enter the holy city of Mecca and were instead forced to enter “on foot through desert paths”. It also accused some companies of failing to provide proper accommodation, causing tourists to suffer from heatstroke.

At the meeting, Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly offered his “sincere condolences and sympathies” as he pledged to provide the necessary support to the families of the dead pilgrims.

Hajj permits are allocated to countries under a quota system and each pilgrim in Saudi Arabia must obtain one of 1.8 million permits to enter Mecca legally.

But since one of these licenses can cost several thousand US dollars, many pilgrims attempt to access the site illegally and usually do not travel on organized tour buses with air conditioning or easy access to water and food supplies.

The Hajj timings are determined by the Islamic lunar calendar, which has fallen in hot temperatures this year in Saudi Arabia. Pilgrims made the trek this year in extreme temperatures of up to 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit).

Ahmad, a 44-year-old from Indonesia, told CNN that he saw many people getting sick and dying from the heat.

“On the way home, I saw many pilgrims die. About every few hundred meters a body was laid and covered with an ihrom [white fabric] Cloth.”

“Every time water is distributed from locals or some groups, it is immediately flooded with pilgrims,” ​​he said, adding that he did not see health workers or an ambulance on the road.

As part of the pilgrimage, believers perform a series of rituals in and around the holy city of Mecca, often requiring several hours of walking each day in intense heat.

Since governments only know pilgrims who have registered and traveled to Mecca as part of their country’s quota, the exact death toll for this year’s Hajj total could be higher.

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