French Pilgrims Fear Swindlers

The first batch of pilgrims left for Saudi Arabia on December 6. A total of 27,000 pilgrims are expected to take the spiritual journey this year.

French Pilgrims Fear Swindlers
Days away from fulfilling a long-cherished dream of making the spiritual hajj journey, French Muslim pilgrims are on guard against bogus and fraudulent travel operators, learning the lesson from past experiences that saw hundreds of fellow countrymen stranded in Saudi Arabia.

"Pilgrims are expected to pick their tour operators carefully," Sheikh Zuhir Bureik, the head of the French Council of Imams, told

"They should seek advice as most of them are enticed by the cheapest offers and most attractive packages, which usually turn out to be phony."

The first batch of pilgrims left for Saudi Arabia on December 6. A total of 27,000 pilgrims are expected to take the spiritual journey this year.

Bin Ammar Murad, who embarks this year on his fourth hajj journey, advises fellow pilgrims to take extra money in case they were misled.

"When we found out that the package was completely different from the one we paid for in advance, we had to pay from our own pockets for proper accommodation," he recalled.

"Four colleagues and I had to share a room in a hotel."

Last hajj saw a staggering 7,300 complaints against travel operators or individuals who failed to meet their pre-journey commitments.

Up to 3,000 French pilgrims were left behind in Saudi Arabia after failing to find the supposedly booked seats on flights back to France, prompting Saudi authorities to operate special charters for them.


The phenomenon has propelled the Save the Pilgrims organization, which was established last year to protect people going on hajj from the swindlers, to urge French Muslims to boycott hajj until authorities took deterrent measures against the violators.

Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, once in their lifetime.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded swiftly, issuing a guidebook for pilgrims with a hotline for complaints.

"Price rigging and mind-boggling hajj costs are the main problems of hajj every year," Abdul Qadir Al-Weinisi, the head of the Islamic Cultural Center in Paris, told IOL.

"Hajj prices in France are the most expensive in Europe, ranging between 2,750 euros to 4,000 euros."

He said many pilgrims are back home with bad impression due to the poor hajj services.

Weinisi lamented that leading Islamic bodies in France are not helping organize hajj, leaving pilgrims prey to swindlers.

"It is a matter of poor organization as hajj trips are being organized by profit-seeking individuals," he charged.

But Abdel Kareem Al-Manqiri, an employee at a travel operator, rejects generalization.

"The phenomenon does exist but it should not be generalized," he told IOL.

"No doubt that we seek profit but pilgrims are only to blame for choosing bad and incredible organizers."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16