100s of unescorted female Nigerian pilgrims held in Saudi Arabia
In this Sunday, Nov. 6, 2011 file photo, Muslim women pilgrims make their way to throw cast stones at a pillar, symbolizing the stoning of Satan, in a ritual called "Jamarat," the last rite of the annual hajj, in Mina near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
Published Monday, September 24, 2012 8:55AM EDT
SOKOTO, Nigeria -- Nigerian officials say 398 Muslim women pilgrims traveling to Mecca were temporarily held at a Saudi Arabian airport for traveling without male relatives.
A spokesman for Nigeria's National Hajj Commission said Saudi authorities held the Nigerian women between Thursday and Monday at King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah.
Spokesman Uba Mana said the women were allowed to proceed with their pilgrimage Monday following diplomatic intervention.
He said Saudi authorities held them for not traveling with a male relative due to a "communication gap."
He said an agreement between the countries exempts Nigerian women from requiring a male relative to escort them during the Hajj pilgrimage, which costs about $4,000 per person.
All able-bodied Muslims who can afford it are expected to perform Hajj at least once in their lives.