DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (eTN) – Frustrated, desperate and weeping at Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere International Airport after spending nine days at the departure lounge, 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.
The Tanzanian government, which owns the Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), hired private aircraft from Saudi Arabia and Spain to fly the 1500 stranded pilgrims, but reports indicate that there were landing rights problems in Saudi Arabia during the last days before landing deadline.
The first group of 379 pilgrims flew Tuesday night but failed to land in Saudi Arabia after lacking the landing space. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete met them at the airport on his way to a flight to the US. He promised the pilgrims a quick government intervention.
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.
Each registered pilgrim has paid between US$2400 to US$3200 to cover airfare return ticket, traveling in various Saudi holy places, accommodation and meals during the entire Hajj caravan.