Sharjah tour operator mulls property sale to refund disappointed Haj hopefuls

The highly-anticipated holy pilgrimage turned into a nightmare for almost 150 UAE residents


Mazhar Farooqui

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Photo used for illustrative purposes. — Reuters File
Photo used for illustrative purposes. — Reuters File

Published: Tue 12 Sep 2023, 3:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 12 Sep 2023, 11:30 PM

Amidst the ongoing plight of nearly 150 hopeful Haj pilgrims, the Sharjah-based tour operator, responsible for leaving them unable to travel despite their full payments, has stated that he has put up his property for sale to issue refunds.

On June 28, Khaleej Times reported the heartbreaking situation endured by these individuals who were let down by Baitul Ateeq's failure to fulfil their commitments. None of the travellers, who had entrusted the agency with their Haj plans, were able to make the holy pilgrimage.

In response to the mounting complaints, Shebin Rasheed, representing Baitul Ateeq, initially offered an apology for the "inconvenience" caused, attributing it to a "last-minute change in visa issuance." He assured the affected individuals that they would receive prompt refunds. According to Shebin, the accommodations initially reserved for the travellers had been resold, and the proceeds from these resales would soon be available in the UAE for repayment.

However, more than two and a half months later, the clients are still awaiting their refunds, leading many to file police complaints against Rasheed. Clients' attempts to contact Rasheed have gone unanswered. One Dubai resident, who had paid Dh35,000 for the trip, lamented, "He doesn't respond to our messages either." Another resident, Abdul Hannan Chouhan, who paid Dh52,000 in February, said he pursued the company for answers but received none. "I am at my wit's end now," he said

Rasheed, in a WhatsApp message to Khaleej Times, said he has put up his property in India for sale to secure the funds needed for the refunds. He also stated that he is exploring a compensation case against a Saudi company, citing financial loss, defamation, and emotional damage as reasons for the action.

However, those who signed up with him remain sceptical, saying they've only received commitments that were not fulfilled. In July, Rasheed asserted that he had refunded 20 individuals, but failed to provide any evidence such as names and contact numbers, despite repeated requests. Furthermore, he was unable to furnish details of anyone who had successfully undertaken the Haj journey through his agency in the past.

Khaleej Times uncovered that this was not the first instance of Baitul Ateeq leaving Haj hopefuls stranded without refunds. Individuals like Fazlullah (Dh50,400), Kamil Tahir Gani (Dh30,000), and Mohammad Ashram (Dh25,000) presented evidence of unpaid Haj trips that were assured and paid for as far back as 2020. While Saudi Arabia had barred foreign pilgrims from performing Haj in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, those who had paid Baitul Ateeq in 2020 claimed to have received nothing but empty promises.


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