A Cape Town family recently undertook the desperate task of locating a missing family member, Gadija Samodien (79), who had travelled to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform the minor pilgrimage. The pilgrim, who was missing for 13 days, was located at a hospital in Makkah. She is believed to have taken ill and was subsequently escorted to a nearby Hospital. Samodien, who was officially identified by a family member, is currently staying at a hotel in Makkah until she is scheduled to leave the Kingdom.
In a quest to locate Samodien, a search party was on duty in and around the area of Makkah. In addition, hundreds of flyers were posted around the Haram, which detailed the search for the pilgrim in both Arabic and English.
Samodien’s niece, who travelled with her to the Holy Land, explained that her last encounter with Samodien was at the Al-Bait Mall, after which Samodien and her sister walked toward the entrance.
“She and her sister just walked toward the entrance, after which they both disappeared. We found her sister two days later in the Haram in front of the Kaaba,” Samodien’s niece explained in a Whatsapp group that was dedicated to locating the missing pilgrim.
Chairperson for Sathoa, Sedick Steenkamp, explained that the imposition of constant construction creates an environment in which individuals may easily lose their way.
“It is so necessary that you [as a pilgrim] have identification on your person. There is no off season – Makkah is constantly full of people.”
Mu’tamireen, Steenkamp asserted, in order to ensure utmost safety and security, are advised to book their Haj and Umrah with registered agents. He further urged pilgrims to provide both their next of kin and their group leaders with contact details. Pilgrims are also advised to keep a card on their person, which details the information of the hotel at which they are staying.
Older pilgrims are also advised to “move in groups” in the event that they fall ill or are injured. Where possible, the elderly should travel to the holy lands with a family member or a trusted friend who will avail themselves in the event that “something goes wrong.”
He further noted that Saudi hospitals do not allow male entry into female rooms. Females should, therefore, accompany the search party when locating a female pilgrim.
Steenkamp explained that as a result of the stampede, which occurred in 2015, Saudi officials are considering electronically tagging Hujjaaj to ensure that pilgrims are always identifiable.
He affirmed that social-media was influential in assisting in the location of the pilgrim.
“If we did not have the social media, the awareness would not have been there, we even saw that the consulate general was included in the chats to assist in locating this lady,” Steenkamp concluded.
VOC (Thakira Desai)