The hundreds of Dutch Muslims who will perform the Hajj this year are in deep uncertainty. The Saudi government has decided that the flight can only be booked through an official government platform. Tours organized through Dutch travel agencies will be cancelled.
The Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Every Muslim who is able to make this journey must at least once in his life. Besides a spiritual investment, the trip is a financial investment that many Muslims have made for years.
“We were scammed,” says Mohamed, 50, who owns a travel agency in Amsterdam that offers pilgrimages, among other things. Many Muslims book through these specialized agencies. At the beginning of March, Mohammed registered his organization as an approved partner with the Ministry of Hajj, a Saudi agency that issues entry visas to Mecca, among other things. Since then, registrations for the flight have started pouring in on Mohamed.
When the organizer did not hear about the ministry at the beginning of May, he got wet. “We have already made deposits for flights and hotels.” Last Sunday, travel agencies promised to arrange all visas on time. But it turns out that nothing is less true. “A day later, I received a message that the Saudi government only accepts reservations through the Tawaf platform.” Tawaf for submissions of applications from European, American and Australian Muslims. Due to the arrival of this platform, 23 Dutch specialized travel agencies have been sidelined.
But by registering via tawaf, as a Muslim you are not yet sure about traveling to Mecca. The raffle will determine who will ultimately make the trip from July 7-12. This creates chaos. “You won’t know until Friday if you’ve secured a place, you only have two weeks to get ready,” Mohammed says.
47-year-old Radwan will go from Amsterdam to Mecca with his wife this year. He had already made a deposit with Mohammed’s travel agency, but was told last week that the trip could not continue. “Big disappointment, just before departure.” There is a great deal of uncertainty due to the platform’s arrival. It is unclear where people end up, how transportation is arranged and who is the supervisor. When you reach Mecca, it is important that you receive good guidance as a Muslim. I don’t know the way there and there is a language barrier.”
Radwan is not using the platform and will be staying at home this year. Fortunately, the amount of 14,000 euros was refunded. And he will go to Mecca next year through the travel agency of Muhammad. This is positive for Mohammed. ,, We use the Travelers Deposit to make a deposit with the airline and hotels in Makkah Al Mukarramah. Now that the flight has been cancelled, we have to return the money to the traveler, but we don’t get anything back ourselves.”
Tomorrow many travel agencies will meet in The Hague about canceled pilgrimages. Muhammad: “There is a good chance that we will go to court.”
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