(WASHINGTON DC –- September 4, 2015) Each year, more than 14,000 American Muslims attend Hajj to fulfill a myriad of religious obligations.
Recently, UMAA Advocacy Director Rahat Husain met with officials from the State Department, the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia, Customs and Border Protection, and the Department of Homeland Security to discuss how American Muslims can take advantage of the range of protections and services provided by the United States to travelers on Hajj.
To prepare for any unforeseen problems or emergencies, UMAA provides some recommendations to Hajj travelers:
MERS Corona Virus Advisory – The U.S. Department of State has advised U.S. citizens who may be considering travel to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj (approximately September 21 – 26, 2015) and ongoing Umrah, of Saudi government health recommendations concerning the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS CoV) in the country. The Saudi government recommends that pilgrims who have “chronic diseases such as heart, kidney, and respiratory diseases, not to forget diabetes, as well as patients with congenital and acquired immune deficiency, in addition to patients suffering from tumors, and pregnant women and children” postpone plans to participate in the pilgrimage this year. These recommendations were made by the Saudi government “to maintain the public health and ensure a safe and healthy atmosphere.”
Health Advisory – Historically, temperatures year round in Makkah have ranged between 64 and 108 degrees Fahrenheit with even hotter temperatures possible in the summer. There are facilities providing water, public accommodations, and other amenities. Due to the large crowds, however, travelers should expect long wait times for basic amenities, especially in Mina, Muzdalifa, and Arafat.
Register Online with the STEP program – The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. This is will help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. It will also help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
Travel safely – Do not reveal personal information, such as your beliefs or sectarian affiliation to strangers or even security personnel. Also, keep private any information about your citizenship. Remain private in your interactions with others, and avoid public confrontations or arguments. If any particular situation feels threatening or dangerous, gather your group members and leave the area immediately.
If you need help or in the event of an emergency – In the event of a true life-or-death emergency, such as an arrest, death, or victims of a crime, U.S. citizens may call +966(12)667-0080 ext4180 during business hours. This number is not to be used for visa inquiries, appointment requests, or other non-emergency matters. Please use the appropriate email address for all other inquiries.
After business hours, U.S. citizens in the Jeddah consular district with true emergencies should contact +966(12)667-0080 and your call will be directed to the Duty Officer.
The Office of Overseas Citizens Services (OCS) at the Department of State in Washington, D.C., is the point of contact for family members in the United States who are concerned about a U.S. citizen family member abroad. You can reach OCS 24 hours a day by calling 1-888-407-4747 or 1-202-501-4444.
You may also contact the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh at 011-488-3800. The U.S. Consulate General and U.S. Embassy will be closed Sunday, October 5 through Thursday, October 12 due to Columbus Day, the local holiday for Eid-al-Adha/Hajj, and the normal weekend (Friday and Saturday).
Duty Officers will be available for emergency assistance on those dates and after business hours on any other date. During regular business hours at any other time, callers should ask for the American Citizens Services Unit.
Note: When dialing the Jeddah area (includes Makkah and Taif) from the U.S., use country code 966 and city code 12. For example, dial 966-12-542-7003 for The National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims. When dialing the Riyadh area, use city code 11, e.g. 966-11-488-3800 for the U.S. Embassy.
Additionally, you may contact the Saudi department tasked with law enforcement charged with the protection of Hajj travelers, “The National Tawafa Establishment for Pilgrims of Turkey and Muslims of Europe, Americas, and Australia”, Telephone numbers from within Saudi Arabia: 012-542-7003 x101 or Mobile: 0505-608-150. Website: http://www.teaa.com.sa/
Other emergency phone numbers include:
Health Affairs: 012-530-8812
Lost Pilgrims: 012-530-8813
Traffic Accidents 993
For assistance contacting media officials or for other assistance in speaking with US Government agencies, you may also contact UMAA firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact the other offices first, as UMAA is not able to provide emergency assistance to Hajj travelers.
We hope that you will have a trouble-free Hajj like thousands of other pilgrims from the United States. However, if something does go wrong, the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah can provide you appropriate consular services:
- Arrange for replacement emergency U.S. passports and “boarding foils” for lost U.S. legal permanent resident cards. After Hajj, please bring a report from the United Agents Office or police regarding the loss and a copy of your U.S. passport or green card.
- Attempt to contact you within 24 hours of being told that you have been arrested.
- Make special arrangements in case of civil disturbances or disasters.
- Provide contact information for local lawyers and hospitals.
- Arrange for a spouse or next of kin to be told of an accident, arrest, or death, and advise them on procedures.
We cannot, however, provide the following services:
- Arrange your travel outside of the designated areas in Makkah and Madinah;
- Resolve immigration violations;
- Become involved in any disagreements, e.g. pilgrim and travel agency disputes or lost baggage;
- Rearrange airline, hotel, or other travel bookings;
- Pay for hotel, legal, medical, travel, or other bills;
- Release you from prison;
- Provide legal advice or intervene in court cases or criminal investigations;