29 February 2020
Saadon Moktar was visibly happy that he and his family were finally safe back home from Saudi Arabia.
“I am happy that my family and I have finally reached home safely,” said the 57-year-old Penang fire and rescue department director.
They departed from Madinah at 10.55pm on Friday.
Saadon said there were about 800 pilgrims who were still stranded in the Holy land.
“Initially, we were supposed to come back on Feb 28. However, due to the suspension of Umrah and tourist visa to Saudi Arabis, the flight that was supposed to bring us back home could not make it.
“However, with the assistance of the Malaysian government in cooperation with the Saudi Arabian authorities, one flight was allowed to repatriate some of the stranded pilgrims back to Malaysia.
“We are lucky as we had completed the Umrah and were only stranded for a day as there were no flights to bring us back home at that time,” he said.
He was also grateful to the assistance by the Zahafiz Travel & Tours, a travel agency which bore all the costs when they were stranded at Saudi Arabia.
On the situation at the Holyland, Saadon said at first he was worried as there were other pilgrims who were also stranded.
“But I believe that those who are stranded there ill be brought back soon,” he said.
Another pilgrim, Zaiton Mohd, 58, who was also on the same flight as Saadon, was relieved that she and her family had completed the Umrah as scheduled.
“I departed to Makkah on Feb 18 and was scheduled to come back today.
“Syukur (thank God), we are not stranded there,” said Zaiton from Kemaman, Terengganu.
On Feb 27, it was reported that the Saudi government had temporarily suspended Umrah visas over the Covid-19 outbreak.
Wisma Putra has since confirmed that Malaysia was listed as one of the countries facing Covid-19 crisis.
Nine countries in the Middle East are currently facing the Covid-19 outbreak – Iran, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Israel, Oman, Lebanon, and Egypt.