Makkah taxi fares irk local pilgrims

Getting around Makkah is a nightmare for the elderly, who have to walk long distances within the Grand Mosque thanks to the ongoing construction work and are conned into paying extortionate sums of money to get their hands on a wheelchair.

Getting around Makkah is a nightmare for the elderly, who have to walk long distances within the Grand Mosque thanks to the ongoing construction work and are conned into paying extortionate sums of money to get their hands on a wheelchair.

Pilgrims and residents visiting Makkah have protested the extortionate fares charged by cabbies in the holy city.

The influx of pilgrims during Ramadan and the summer season has prompted Makkah’s Traffic Department to chalk out a comprehensive traffic plan, which involves forcing private cars to park at specific parking lots almost 20 km away from the Grand Mosque.

These pilgrims then have to catch a bus to the Grand Mosque, which costs SR5 per passenger.
Many elderly pilgrims or those with children resort to taking taxis because the buses drop them off at locations that are still very far from the mosque.

“These buses are not disable-friendly and their drop-off points are simply too far for the elderly,” said Khider Islam, a pilgrim who was performing Umrah along with his elderly mother.

“There is a dire shortage of wheelchairs and taxis to get to the Grand Mosque and people are taking advantage of this,” he said.

Asad Ali, a pilgrim, was surprised at his experience when he had decided to take a taxi from the Grand Mosque to the parking lot where he had parked his car.

“I had to pay SR150 to get from my car to the mosque, which is only 20 km away from the parking lot,” he said.

“Even then, we get dropped off far away because of the construction work. I was lucky to be able to find a wheelchair for my sick brother, but not everyone is as lucky.”

“The new expansion is so vast that it takes a long time to walk within the Grand Mosque itself, another problem for the elderly and pilgrims who are unable to walk,” said Tanzeem Hassan, another pilgrim.
“There should be buggies to transport the disabled and the elderly just like at the airport,” he said.

“Although the government does provide free wheelchairs, many minors get a hold of these wheelchairs and con pilgrims into paying extortionate prices of anywhere between SR200 and SR400 depending on the time of day.”

“The government should set a fixed price so that these kids do not exploit the shortage and need for these wheelchairs.”

“Electronic wheelchairs are available for SR50 between the Safa and Marwa landmarks, but their numbers are very limited and pilgrims have to wait a long time to get their hands on one,” he said.

“I stood in line for 45 minutes to get one because they had to be electronically recharged. The government should create points of access for wheelchairs across different parts of the Grand Mosque with paid attendants to counteract children trying to make a fast buck at the expense of helpless pilgrims who are oblivious to the fact that these facilities are free.”

 
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