Pilgrims on Umrah (lesser Hajj) in Mecca are being exploited and exposed to danger by commercial motorcylists, reports Saudi Arabia’s English language daily, Arab News.
According to the paper, motorcyles are among the most important means of transportation in Mecca during Ramadan because they are easy to use and cope easily with congestion in the central area next to the Grand Mosque.
Despite the presence of public transportation, many Umrah pilgrims prefer to use motorbikes because of the large number of visitors. Motorbike owners exploit the needs of pilgrims and offer to transport them for exorbitant sums of money. The sums are not only beyond logic or reason, but the riders are also exposing themselves to danger because the drivers drive recklessly and think nothing of going the wrong way on one-way streets. By using undercover officers, the traffic directorate in Mecca makes great efforts to control the bikes, but the numbers are simply too great. Transportation charges for motorbikes are high in comparison with the distance covered, especially during the last 10 days of Ramadan. The price may be as high as SR500 (N25,500) for a 5 km ride.
On the other hand, there are airline tickets which can be bought for SR300. Imran Al-Yazidi, who has a motorbike said some people transport Umrah pilgrims for astronomical sums because they see the season as a chance for high profits. He added that bikers don’t force pilgrims to take the service but people choose to do so of their own free will, knowing the dangers.