Thursday, 20 December 2007
By Adel Al-Malki
MINA - Some 350 beggars were arrested in Makkah, Arafat and Mina in the last few days, according to Mansour Al-Hazmi, director of Makkah Anti-Begging Department.
Most of the beggars are foreigners. Some of them have stayed in the holy sites since their arrival for Umrah in Ramadan. Haj means fortune for beggars. Al-Hazmi said that during Haj a beggar may collect up to SR1,000 a day.
Thousands of these beggars position themselves near Jamrat. They go up to pilgrims with sob stories to gain sympathy, and more importantly, alms.
Beggars use a proven technique by approaching the pilgrims after the stoning ritual or when shaving their heads.
Adam Abdul Raheem, a pilgrim from Sudan, said he was stopped by a pilgrim from Asia who then began telling him something he could not understand.
"He was speaking in his own language, so I didn't get the real story, though I think he was trying to tell me that he lost his money," said Abdul Raheem.
"I know most of them are lying but I still give them money. It doesn't matter - what I'm after is rewards from Allah."
Some beggars use "key words" repeatedly to appeal to the pilgrims.
"More than five beggars approached me, saying words like ‘Haj Mabrouk.' I just found myself reaching into my pocket for some money," said Mustafa Fadhel, a pilgrim from Syria.
Other beggars show pilgrims expensive medical reports or medicine bills that they say are beyond their means.
Tears come on top of those sympathetic "presentations."
A pilgrim from Africa who sought help from a pilgrim from a Gulf country, said he lost his wallet and didn't have enough money to go back home.
After receiving alms from the Gulf pilgrim, the beggar jumped on four more pilgrims for extra money.
Some of the beggars say they are just doing their jobs. Surely, it doesn't get simpler in Haj.
"How can I buy medicines for my sick mother if I don't do this?," said a female beggar who claims to be the breadwinner in her family.
She said that she has tried looking for a job but couldn't find one.
" I think this is the best way and the best season to collect money," she said.