Death and life in Mecca
You might've read on my twitter feed (@MuhammadLila) a few days ago that the journalists' bus from Arafat to Muzdalifah had to make an emergency stop after our driver hit an elderly man.
This morning, we learned the man died.
To say he was "hit" would be an understatement. We were part of a three-bus convoy, travelling at night, on a very crowded street filled with pedestrians. For the most part, pedestrians here know the deal: When you see a bus creeping up behind you, move out of the way - not completely, but just enough to avoid the bus wheel running over your foot. The drivers, too, will generally brake or swerve just in time to avoid disaster.
Except in our case. The driver was speeding downhill trying to catch the bus in front of us. He was honking his horn and flashing his beams for pedestrians to get out of the way. They all did.
Except for one.
I saw it all happen, and it plays over and over again in slow motion in my head. From his terrified eyes as he looked up into the headlights, to the sound when his head cracked the windshield.
Saudi authorities are doing a much better job this year at crowd control and emergency response times, but they dropped the ball on this one. The man lay there, in a pool of blood, for at least half an hour before an ambulance showed up.
My thoughts go out to his family, wherever they are. I hope he at least gets a proper funeral.
In other news, Indonesian officials are saying 122 Indonesian pilgrims (59 men, 53 women) have died during this year's Hajj. Most were related to respiratory or circulatory conditions.
Trying to find the link, but several pilgrims have also given birth during the Hajj. Happens every year. Doubt the kids'll get Saudi citizenship.