x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE Haj mission helps solve problems

Keeping thousands of UAE pilgrims happy can be a thankless task, but officials at the Haj mission work hard to deal with all complaints.

The annual Islamic pilgrimage draws three million visitors each year, making it the largest yearly gathering of people in the world.
The annual Islamic pilgrimage draws three million visitors each year, making it the largest yearly gathering of people in the world.

Whether pilgrims are complaining about food, bedrooms or medications, UAE Haj officials are determined to resolve them.

More than 5,000 people have arrived from the UAE, and some have contacted the official UAE Haj mission to complain about certain services provided by their agencies.

Mohammed Al Mazrouei, head of the mission, says most complaints were simple.

"For instance, some people are used to a pampered lifestyle or certain type of food, they didn't expect to be sharing rooms or having to wait for long hours on the road."

Lawaheth Mustafa, a 54-year-old Egyptian-Emirati, could not find access to medical treatment for five days until she was given the mission's number.

They sent her an ambulance with a doctor and she was brought to the mission's clinic for treatment.

"When I reached Madina I got sick ... then when we arrived in Mecca three days ago I collapsed during Sae'e between the Safa and the Marwa," explains Mrs Mustafa.

Three days later she was given the number of the commission by another pilgrim.

"I feel so much better now, they gave me an injection and did everything they can to make me feel better."

Dr Essam Al Zarouni explains that the woman called the clinic saying she neither knew who her agency owner was nor where her agency's clinic was, and that the doctor was still in Madina.

"The pilgrim should inquire about all the details beforehand ... but even when someone comes and gives me an unrealistic complaint I don't argue with them, first I treat them and then we see how the problem can be solved. Our priority is the safety of the patient," he adds.

As for general complaints, the mission has received four so far.

"One pilgrim complained that his their rooms and bathrooms were not clean, and that the keys for the women's bedrooms were missing," explains Abdullah Moussa, from the mission's complaints committee.

Members from the committee went on site and instructed the agency to fix the problems, "we are waiting for the person to come and withdraw his complaint so we can close the file".

The committee's four members keep visiting the agency they received complaints about until the problems are fixed. If they are not, the agencies will face fines between Dh5,000, issued for bad management, to Dh100,000, which can be issued to agencies caught without a licence. Some agencies might also have their licence taken away.

Another pilgrim complained that he wanted the three-star service in Mecca, that was afforded to him in Madina. "We checked his contract with the agency, it was stated that the services in Mecca will be two stars only, so his complaint was invalid," says Mr Moussa.

A landlord issued a complaint against a Haj contractor for not paying rent. This is not really the mission's authority, but they managed to fix it anyway.

"We called the contractor and he immediately paid - contractors always consider the mission's authority so they comply when we call them," Mr Moussa says.

Another complaint was about transportation. "The situation was out of the agency's hand, the bus faced technical problems and stopped on the road, but the problem was fixed in 15 minutes," Mr Moussa says . "There are no serious complaints so far."

The clinic's doctors have their share of unreal problems too.

An agency's doctor insisted on sending a man and his wife suffering flu to the mission's clinic because they did not respond to the medicine he gave them the night before.

"What else will we give them if you send them here?" says Dr Amal Al Adab over the phone. "The medicine has not have a chance to react yet."

hdajani@thenational.ae