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Egypt Revokes Licenses of 16 Tourism Companies After Hajj Tragedy, Cites Illegal Pilgrim Arrangements

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has taken decisive action against 16 tourism companies, revoking their licenses and referring their managers to the public prosecutor’s office for illegally facilitating pilgrims’ travel to Makkah, according to a statement from the cabinet on Saturday. This move comes in the wake of reports that more than 1,100 deaths occurred during this year’s Hajj, with many attributed to extreme heat conditions.

Arab diplomats disclosed that among these deaths, Egyptians accounted for 658, with 630 being unregistered pilgrims. The Egyptian cabinet emphasized that the surge in deaths among unregistered pilgrims resulted from companies arranging Hajj trips using personal visit visas, which prohibit entry into Makkah through official channels.

“The prime minister has ordered the licenses of these companies to be revoked, their managers to be referred to the public prosecutor and the imposition of a fine to benefit the families of the pilgrims who died because of them,” the statement read.

The cabinet’s statement underscores the government’s intent to hold these companies accountable for circumventing official Hajj processes, thereby endangering the lives of pilgrims. This year, the irregular practice of attempting Hajj without proper permits has gained traction, spurred by high costs and facilitated by the Saudi general tourism visa introduced in 2019. This visa has made entering the Gulf kingdom easier, though unauthorized pilgrims face the risk of arrest and deportation by Saudi authorities.

On Friday, a senior Saudi official defended the kingdom’s management of the pilgrimage, noting that 577 deaths were confirmed during the two busiest days of Hajj—Saturday, when pilgrims endured the scorching heat on Mount Arafat, and Sunday, during the stoning of the devil ritual in Mina. He acknowledged the harsh weather conditions but indicated that this figure only partially accounted for the total number of deaths throughout Hajj, which officially ended on Wednesday.

Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, saw participation from 1.8 million pilgrims this year, with 1.6 million traveling from abroad. The timing of Hajj, dictated by the Islamic lunar calendar, has meant recent pilgrimages have occurred during Saudi Arabia’s sweltering summer, posing significant challenges for the largely outdoor rituals.

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