Unplanned Makkah district is a ‘haven for drug dealers’

Al-Otaibiya District in Makkah has become a preferred destination for illegal residents and criminal activities after its original inhabitants left the area

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The unplanned Al-Otaibiya District in the central part of Makkah has become a preferred destination for illegal residents and workers after its original inhabitants left the area years ago.

The old, crowded area has provided an environment for criminal activities including illegal workshops that offer different counterfeit products and drug traffickers who take advantage of the neighborhood’s narrow and hidden alleys.

Muhammad Al-Shareef, resident, said textile trading had always been associated with the area. The Al-Gammasha market – named after the Arabic word for textiles, qimash – occupies a large part of the area as it was the only built area in the region that was not demolished.

“It started decades ago with a few shops before it was expanded along adjacent streets, and now it is one of the city’s well-known markets,” he said.

Residents from Asian and African countries had started settling in the area after the original residents left. Most of those residents worked and ran businesses in the area.

However, some illegal activities started to become noticeable in the area since then, like drug trafficking. Al-Shareef said: “Many residents reported these activities to Jarwal police station and filed complaints with the mayor.

“Traffickers disappear as security inspection campaigns start and return afterwards.” He added the area’s unplanned narrow alleys helped these drug dealers practice their illegal activities unseen.

However, constant raids by anti-narcotics officials have resulted in the arrest of some of them. Al-Shareef called on the authorities to increase their control and constantly monitor the area.

Saeed Al-Rabighi, a 53-year-old government employee and a resident, said he has been living in Al-Otaibiya since he was a child.

He said: “The most annoying characteristic of this area is the potholes that damage our cars and the pools of overflown sewage water that can cause diseases.”

He said the residents had approached the Makkah Municipality and requested to have potholes fixed and stagnant water removed but received no response.

Another issue that irks people in the area is the increasing number of abandoned cars. They are forced to park their cars in places where they fear they would be damaged.

The many abandoned vehicles sometimes block public service vehicles from reaching elevated areas. Salem Al-Harbi, another resident, said illegal Arab traveling vendors selling counterfeit and fake products are increasing.

He said: “Many also sell canned food, vegetables and fruit, promoting their products by yelling in plain sight.” Some families sell food prepared at their homes without supervision, he added.

He said the large numbers of motorcyclists represent another inconvenience for residents, traveling around the popular market in huge numbers annoying people and polluting the environment.

“Children, women and elderly persons have been run over by these motorcycles. Some of them are even involved in criminal acts like snatching purses and belongings of pedestrians.”

Essa Al-Jizani, a resident, agreed with Al-Harbi and added that garbage accumulates and remain in the streets for days sometimes, especially in Ramadan when the area’s streets are congested with traffic preventing cleaners’ vehicles from entering the area.

The area is considered a hub for illegal domestic workers and middlemen who provide them can be found around its alleys.

This was first published by the Saudi Gazette.

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