A Maryland couple 'walked for hours' before dying in the heat of the Hajj

An American couple who died during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia walked for more than two hours in scorching temperatures before succumbing to heat stroke, their daughter told the BBC.

Alhaji Alieu Dausy Wurie, 71, and Haja Isatu Wurie, 65, of Bowie, Maryland, were among an estimated 1,300 people who died during the annual pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.

Temperatures at this year's meeting sometimes exceeded 50 degrees Celsius.

Saida Wurie told the BBC that her parents' tour group had failed to deliver many of the items promised, including food and sufficient water.

The Sierra Leonean-born couple went missing on Sunday, June 16, two weeks after arriving in Saudi Arabia.

Days later, the younger Ms Wurie was told they had died.

The grieving daughter told the BBC that the Hajj pilgrimage was “very important” to her parents, and that they had each paid $11,500 (£9,000) to go.

“It's something they wanted to do all their lives,” she added. “They were beyond excited.”

The couple traveled to the Middle East with a group of nearly a hundred other pilgrims through an American tour company operating out of Maryland.

According to Ms Wurie, “many of the things they were promised were not delivered”.

“They went out to look for food for themselves for a few days, even though the package would come with meals every day.”

With minimal supplies in the smoldering heat, the couple told Mrs Wurie they were “taking it day by day” and making sure they stayed hydrated.

The BBC has contacted the company for comment.

In their last text message conversation – after several missed calls – Ms Wurie said her parents told them they had been “walking for over two hours”.

Shortly afterwards, consular officials and a member of the same tour group confirmed that the couple had died.

With the help of consular officials, Mrs. Wurie was able to determine which cemetery her parents were buried in, although they have not yet determined the cemetery location.

“They don't have their personal belongings,” she said. “It's a lot of questions and we need to find some answers.”

Ms Wurie said she plans to travel to Saudi Arabia to see where her parents are buried.

She also told the BBC that the tour company had said it would arrange the correct visas and registration for the trip, but had failed to do so.

According to the official Saudi news agency SPA, most Mecca pilgrims did not have an official permit. However, the process of obtaining official hajj permits can be expensive or complicated.

The Hajj is the annual pilgrimage of Muslims to the holy city of Mecca. Those who are financially and physically able to complete the journey are expected to do so at least once in their lives.

Saudi Arabia said about 1.8 million people took part in the pilgrimage this year.

Health Minister Fahd Al-Jaljel said officials recently started efforts to raise awareness about heat stress.

Saudi Arabia has recently been criticized for not making the Hajj safer, especially for unregistered pilgrims.

Those without proper permits have difficulty accessing air-conditioned areas and other amenities for official travelers.

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