July 20, 2024

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A Maryland couple “walked for hours” before dying in the heat of the pilgrimage

A Maryland couple “walked for hours” before dying in the heat of the pilgrimage
Video explanation, The last heartbreaking message from my mother before Hajj passed away

  • author, Caitriona Perry, Anna Fajoy, and Bernd Debusmann Jr
  • Role, BBC News, Washington

An American couple who died while performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia had been walking for more than two hours in extremely hot temperatures before suffering heat stroke, their daughter told the BBC.

Alhaji Aliu Dawsi Wori, 71, and Hajja Isatou Wori, 65, of Bowie, Maryland, were among an estimated 1,300 people who died during the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Temperatures during this year’s gathering exceeded 122 F (50 C) at times.

Saeeda Wori told the BBC that her parents’ tour group had failed to provide many of the items they had promised, including food and adequate water.

The Sierra Leone-born couple disappeared on Sunday, June 16, two weeks after arriving in Saudi Arabia.

Days later, the younger Ms. Woori was informed of their deaths.

The grieving daughter told the BBC that the Hajj was “very important” to her parents, and they had each paid $11,500 (£9,000) to perform the Hajj.

“It’s something they’ve wanted to do their whole lives,” she added. “They were very excited.”

The couple traveled to the Middle East with a group of about 100 other pilgrims through an American tour company operating out of Maryland.

According to Ms. Woori, “a lot of the things they promised were not delivered.”

“They spent a few days searching for food for themselves, even though the package was supposed to come with meals every day.”

With minimal supplies in the extreme heat, the couple told Ms Woori they were “taking it one day at a time” and making sure they stayed hydrated.

The BBC has contacted the company for comment.

Comment on the photo, The Wuries sent a final text to their daughter

In their last text exchange – after several missed calls – Ms Woori said her parents told them they had been “walking for over two hours”.

Shortly after, consular officials and a member of the same tour group confirmed the couple’s deaths.

With the assistance of consular officials, Ms. Woori was able to identify the cemetery where her parents were buried, although they had not yet determined the location within the burial area.

“They do not have their personal belongings,” she added. “It’s a lot of questions, and we have to find some answers.”

Ms. Woori said she plans to travel to Saudi Arabia to find where her parents are buried.

She also told the BBC that the tour company said it would provide proper visas and registration for the trip, but failed to do so.

According to the official Saudi Press Agency, most of the pilgrims to Mecca did not have official permits. However, the process of obtaining official Hajj permits may be expensive or complicated.

Hajj is the annual pilgrimage undertaken by Muslims to the holy city of Mecca. Those who are financially and physically able to complete the journey are expected to do so at least once in their lives.

Saudi Arabia said that about 1.8 million people participated in the Hajj season this year.

The country’s Minister of Health, Fahd Al-Jalajel, said that officials recently began making efforts to raise awareness about heat stress.

Saudi Arabia has recently come under criticism for not making Hajj safer, especially for unregistered pilgrims.

Those without proper permits struggle to access places that provide air conditioning and other resources for official travellers.

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Hajj is the annual pilgrimage undertaken by Muslims to the holy city of Mecca
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