‘He’s nonetheless amongst us’: Sons information hajj pilgrims in tribute to father who died of Covid

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SAUDI: In Mecca, the location of the annual hajj, the sons of a distinguished Saudi information who died of Covid after three a long time serving pilgrims have taken up the torch in tribute.

Talaat Tounsi got here from one of many six households in Mecca who historically function “mutawaf” — guides who assist overseas pilgrims carry out the rites of hajj and the year-round umrah.

A former sports activities journalist earlier than devoting himself to the vocation, which is handed down from technology to technology, he died in August 2020 on the age of 52, abandoning six sons and two daughters.

“If one thing occurs to me, you and your brothers must keep collectively and proceed my work,” Tounsi mentioned earlier than his loss of life, in line with one among his sons Majed.

“All of us determined to work this yr for the primary time within the service of pilgrims to honour the reminiscence of our father,” the 32-year-old physician informed AFP, his voice shaking with emotion.

ALSO READ | Pilgrims ascend Mount Arafat in excessive level of pandemic-era hajj

The complete household fell unwell in July 2020 after one among Tounsi’s two daughters, who can be a health care provider, grew to become contaminated with the virus. 

“He was admitted to the intensive care unit however went on to endure from a number of issues. He fell right into a coma and by no means recovered,” Majed mentioned of his father.

The dean of the mutawaf, Abdullah al-Maliki, mentioned in a video that Tounsi had “bodily left us, however together with his good deeds and morals, he’s nonetheless amongst us”, commending his sons for persevering with the custom.

Saudi Arabia, which has recorded greater than 500,000 coronavirus infections together with some 8,000 deaths, has drastically restricted the variety of hajj pilgrims up to now two years as a result of pandemic. 

From 2.5 million in 2019, the quota was slashed to about 10,000 the next yr when the hajj was held simply months after the pandemic broke out. 

– ‘Carrying on the mission’ –

Tounsi informed AFP in an interview final yr that he was “deeply saddened” on the prospect of holding such a restricted pilgrimage.

This yr’s hajj, which reaches its excessive level on Monday, takes in a complete of 60,000 pilgrims — all vaccinated and both residents or residents of the dominion, with Muslims overseas excluded as soon as once more.

Throughout Ramadan, the fasting month which this yr spanned April and Could, Majed and his brothers volunteered with associations in Mecca, Islam’s holiest metropolis.

It’s dwelling to the Kaaba, a big black cubic construction on the centre of Mecca’s Grand Mosque.

The primary ritual of the hajj consists in performing “tawaf” — the phrase from which mutawaf is derived — or strolling seven instances across the Kabaa.

ALSO READ | COVID-19 transforms hajj in Mecca and way forward for the pilgrimage

On the finish of the pilgrimage, following the stoning ritual at Mount Arafat, pilgrims retun to Mecca for a ultimate circling of the Kaaba.

Tounsi’s sons, some accompanied by their very own sons, have been mobilised in Mecca the previous few days to cater to the necessity of the pilgrims.

Whereas the youngest members of the family hand out hand out water, espresso and dates, the older ones assist pilgrims full administrative procedures, largely by means of contact-free applied sciences laid on by authorities to curb infections.

“I really feel I’m carrying on the mission and position of my father,” Majed mentioned, recalling days spent by his aspect throughout his childhood in the course of the hajj and umrah. 

– ‘Honour given by God’ –

The Tounsi household has been working as hajj guides for greater than 80 years. 

The baton is handed on by means of the generations inside six households in Mecca whose members — each women and men — assist with transportation, meals, purchasing, and visits to historic spiritual websites. 

Talaat Tounsi was head of the pilgrimage companies committee in Mecca earlier than his premature loss of life.

“Yearly since we have been little, we used to spend the times of the hajj within the holy locations with my father,” Jamal, one other of his sons, informed AFP. 

“He all the time informed us that this job is an honour that God gave to the individuals of Mecca and that we must always not abandon it,” mentioned the 23-year-old engineer. 

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