No hope for Tanzanian Hajj pilgrims

Failure by Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) to maintain its flight schedules caused a delay to more than 1500 Hajj pilgrims who booked the troubled national airline to fly them to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj caravan.

The Muslim pilgrims have been stranded at Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere International Airport in the capital city of Dar es Salaam for up to seven days and some had camped at the airport.

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It has been a long time tradition for Tanzanian Moslems to book Tanzania’s national airline amid frequent flight delays, but this year’s Hajj pilgrimage had raised a serious concern after a week-long delay which the airline’s management failed to address.

The pilgrims from Tanzania mainland, the Indian Ocean island of Comoro and the Muslim dominated Island of Zanzibar were stranded since December 3 with no hope to fly before Tuesday this week, the last day set for all pilgrims to land in Mecca.

Desperately, the pilgrims said their Hajj trip was still in limbo on Tuesday afternoon after an aircraft hired by the Tanzania government from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) failed to land in Tanzania. The UAE registered plane did not have clearance to over fly Ethiopian airspace on its way to Tanzania.

But the chairman of the ATCL board of directors Mustapha Nyang’anyi maintained that the airline had hired a foreign aircraft to fly the pilgrims to the Holy City of Mecca before the deadline for pilgrims to arrive in Saudi Arabia expires this week.

Each registered pilgrim has paid between US dollars 2400 and US dollars 3200 to cover airfare return ticket, traveling in various Saudia Holy places, accommodation and meals during the entire Hajj caravan.

Until Tuesday this week, all pilgrims were stranded at the Tanzanian capital city of Dar es Salaam only praying to God to help them to fulfill the Fifth Pillar of Islam, the “Hijja” or pilgrimage to the Holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

The pilgrims proceeded to ATCL headquarters in Dar es Salaam during the weekend to protest over the airline’s failure to fly them to Saudi Arabia, and prayed to God, asking him to punish and curse the troubled airline.