Thriving business for ‘bike taxis’ amid crackdowns in Haj
Many young Saudi men and even some expatriates find it a lucrative business that enables them to earn a huge amount of money within a couple of days.
A large number of pilgrims prefer motorcycles to other vehicles as the best means of transportation in the midst of huge crowds of pilgrims. They say that two-wheelers help save them both time and money. Motorcycles take minutes to reach their destination while four-wheelers take hours because of the heavy traffic rush on almost all roads.
On a tour of various parts of Mina, Arab News saw several pilgrims traveling on motorcycles and bikes. Despite the measures taken by the traffic police to crack down on this illegal activity, these motorcyclists continue to thrive. The Saudi traffic authorities had prohibited the entry of small vehicles including motorbikes to the holy sites without proper permits as part of measures to ease traffic flow and reduce congestion.
As a result, many motorcyclists gather at the entry points of Mina awaiting their customers. Speaking to Arab News, a number of pilgrims said that they prefer motorcycles to take them to various destinations at the holy sites as well as to the Haram, especially on Dul Hijjah 10 when all roads to Makkah are jammed with vehicles taking pilgrims who need to perform Tawaf Al-Ifada (circumambulation of the Holy Kaaba) and Saie (running between Safaa and Marwa), two key pillars of Haj.
They claimed that they could save time and money by taking a motorcycle. Saeed Al-Katheer, one of the motorcyclists, said he has been doing the job for more than four years. “I took pilgrims from the entry point of Mina to the Haram and vice versa. I managed to earn between SR4,600 and SR5,000 each year,” he said, adding that he rests only for four hours during the Haj. Basheer Hosawi, another young man, said that he used to transport pilgrims on his motorcycle bike during the Haj season every year. “I charged from SR100 to SR150 for a single trip within the holy sites, while the charges from Mina to the Haram vary between SR250 and SR350,” he said.
Ali Zaid told Arab News that he has been doing the same work for a long time. “Nearly three years ago, I bought seven motorcycles, each costing SR1,000. I then used to distribute them among my friends with an agreement that they will pay me SR1,200 per day during the Haj and the rest of the money they can take. As a result, I managed to earn SR8,400 per day, and a total of SR33,600 during the first four days of Haj,” he said, adding that he earned a profit of SR26,000.
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