US couple before dying in Hajj heat ‘walked for hours’


In a heart-wrenching incident during this year’s Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, an American couple, Alhaji Alieu Dausy Wurie, 71, and Haja Isatu Wurie, 65, from Bowie, Maryland, tragically lost their lives after enduring extreme heat conditions. They were among the estimated 1,300 individuals who perished during the annual pilgrima.

According to their daughter, Saida Wurie, speaking to the BBC, her parents had embarked on this pilgrimage of great spiritual significance with high hopes and deep anticipation. It’s something that they wanted to do their entire lives,” she emphasized. “They were beyond excited.

The Wuries, originally from Sierra Leone, had traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of a group of nearly 100 pilgrims organized by an American touring company based in Maryland. However, as Ms. Wurie disclosed, the tour group failed to deliver on several essential promises, including adequate provisions of food and water.

A lot of the things promised to them weren’t provided,” she lamented. “They went a few days having to find food for themselves, even though the package was supposed to come with meals every day.

The situation escalated when the couple went missing on June 16, two weeks after their arrival in Saudi Arabia. Days later, their daughter received the devastating news of their deaths. The circumstances leading to their demise unfolded tragically, with the couple reportedly succumbing to heat stroke after walking for over two hours in temperatures exceeding 122°F (50°C).

During their final communication with their daughter via text message, the Wuries indicated that they had been stranded and walking for an extended period. Subsequently, consular officials and a member of their tour group confirmed their deaths.

Amidst the grief and uncertainty, Ms. Wurie expressed concerns over the handling of her parents’ remains and personal effects. “They don’t have their personal effects,” she shared. “It’s a lot of questions, and we need to find some answers.”

She further revealed plans to travel to Saudi Arabia to locate her parents’ burial site and seek closure. In addition to the emotional turmoil, Ms. Wurie highlighted discrepancies regarding the tour company’s assurances regarding visas and registration, which were reportedly not fulfilled.

Official reports from Saudi Arabia indicate that a significant portion of pilgrims in Mecca lacked official permits, which are crucial for accessing accommodations equipped with amenities such as air conditioning. The process of obtaining these permits can often be costly and complicated.

The Hajj pilgrimage, a cornerstone of Islam, attracts millions of Muslims annually to the holy city of Mecca. It is considered a mandatory religious duty for those who are physically and financially capable. This year, approximately 1.8 million individuals participated in the pilgrimage, despite ongoing challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and logistical issues.

Saudi Arabia’s Health Minister, Fahd Al-Jalajel, acknowledged efforts to raise awareness about heat stress among pilgrims. However, the country has faced criticism for its handling of safety measures, particularly for unregistered pilgrims who struggle to access essential resources.

These criticisms, authorities have emphasized the importance of improving conditions and safety measures during the Hajj pilgrimage, aiming to prevent similar tragedies in the future.

The tragic fate of the Wurie couple underscores the profound challenges and risks associated with the Hajj pilgrimage, compounded by logistical shortcomings and extreme weather conditions. As investigations continue and efforts to improve pilgrimage conditions evolve, the international community awaits answers and assurances to prevent such heartbreaking incidents from recurring.


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