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Hajj Pilgrimage

Tanzania pilgrims’ saga ends in heartbreaks

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Apolinary Tairo  Dec 14, 2007

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – After nine days agonizing over their fate at Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere International Airport, Muslim pilgrims scheduled to fly to Saudi Arabia for Hajj caravan have lost hope to join other Muslims in the world to fulfill the Fifth Pillar of Islam.

Though Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) had hired private aircraft from South Africa and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to fly the 1500 stranded pilgrims, the journey was not meant to be as there were landing problems inside Saudi Arabia. The first group of 379 pilgrims flew Tuesday night but was ordered to turn back after the plane failed to land in Saudi Arabia because it lacked landing permit.

Some pilgrims were uplifted on Wednesday night leaving about 758 others wailing and praying at the airport’s departure lounge, which they complained of lacked essential services there at this period of the year where temperature in Tanzania is over 29 degrees centigrade.

Unconfirmed reports that reached eTN Thursday evening said one of the pilgrims died from exhaustion, but police and the airport authorities were not ready to confirm or deny such reports.

Pilgrims dramatic situation had attracted local and foreign media with a number of journalists visiting them to cover their plight. They complained of the Tanzanian government’s U-Turn in solving their problem and support them to fly to Mecca.

All the planes hired by the government were almost not air worth and were to undergo maintenance before flying, giving more frustrations to the scheduled pilgrims.

The pilgrims from Tanzania mainland, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) the Indian Ocean island of Comoro and the Muslim dominated-island of Zanzibar were stranded since December 3 with no hope to fly before the last day set for all pilgrims to land in Mecca. They had each paid between US$2400 to US$3200.

Compared to its neighbor Kenya, Tanzania is lacking a well-established airline company that could handle the pilgrims; the situation which air travelers said was a shame to aviation industry in this African nation.

Even after 46 years of independence from the British rule with self-government, Tanzania is placed among African countries with poor or zero air services despite of rich tourist attractions available.

The national airline, Air Tanzani has since ever been operating in losses and frustrations among its clients.

Tanzania pilgrims’ saga ends in heartbreaks

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