Leicester couple’s dreams ‘dashed’ as £20k Hajj trip falls through

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By Simon Ward, Khush Sameja & Dan MartinBBC News, Leicester

2 February 2024

Image caption,

Mohamed and Rahma Omar have been trying to get a refund for six months

A couple fear they have lost more than £20,000 after their “once-in-a-lifetime” Hajj pilgrimage fell through.

Mohamed and Rahma Omar spent their life savings on a package trip to Mecca but could not travel, they said, because their flight tickets never arrived.

They booked the trip to fly in June, through the Saudi Arabian government-owned Nusuk Hajj website, but have since been unable to get a refund.

The BBC has made multiple attempts to contact the website for comment.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

The Omars hoped to join millions of other Muslim pilgrims on Hajj

Emails from the website, seen by the BBC, said their complaints had been resolved.

However Mr and Mrs Omar, from Braunstone, Leicester, said they had still not had a refund or flight tickets which would allow them to travel in order to undertake their religious obligations in the future.

Hajj is a religious requirement for all Muslims who can afford it.

It is one of the five pillars of Islam along with five daily prayers, fasting, charity and a belief in God (Allah) and in Muhammad as a prophet.

About 25,000 people from the UK went on the pilgrimage before 2022, when the Saudi government changed the rules to allow only about 3,600 people, who had to book packages directly with a Saudi travel company.

Mr Omar, 67, said: “It’s an injustice not to refund our money. We would still like to go this summer because it is an important pillar of Islam.

“Me and my wife are stressed and we don’t know what to do.

“They tell us they are escalating [our complaint] to a higher authority but it has been six months now.”

Image caption,

Nagib Omar said his parents’ “dreams have been dashed”

The Nusuk website was established by the Saudi government for pilgrims to get accommodation, food, and guided tours as well as arrange travel and visas.

The Saudi embassy in the UK has also not responded to BBC requests for comment.

The couple’s son Nagib Omar has been trying to help them resolve the situation.

He said: “It’s been terrible. My parents’ dreams have been dashed.

“We contacted [the website] constantly three or four times a day. They email to say ‘resolved’ but it isn’t.

“And they just want to get us off the phone.”

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