Thursday, January 5

Another Hajj, Another Tragedy

Pilgrim hostel collapses in Mecca

It seems that we can no longer go through a Hajj season without some kind of catastrophe. The mathematician in me thinks that the 15 this year (or the 251 in 2004 or even the 1426 in 1990) out of a good million is pretty good going, but then the more sensible and reasonable part of me realises that these deaths were, on the whole, quite avoidable (a good analysis can be found here).

The first time my jaw dropped due to a Hajj disaster was over the Mina fire of 1997. Then, 343 people died and I remember actually being scared to go on the obligatory pilgrimage. I guess I was lucky when I did eventually go (in 2002) since there were no major incidents that year, but I do remember thinking more than once how miraculous it was that this was the case (and aspects of my Hajj still remain among the most frightening and hardcore experiences I've ever had to face). Obviously this is a miracle that doesn't occur every year.

Still, I guess there aren't many better ways to pass on than whilst on Hajj. For that reason we may at a stretch be able to envy the dead, although I doubt that their friends and families share that particular sentiment.