Translation error leads to 'anthrax' scare in Saudi Arabia

The mistake saw pilgrims being given bags marked 'anthrax' ahead of the 'stoning of the devil' portion of their Hajj pilgrimage
Translation error leads to 'anthrax' scare in Saudi Arabia
The bag contains small pebbles used for the ‘stoning of the devil’, in which pilgrims throw pebbles at three walls.
By Bernd Debusmann Jr
Mon 19 Aug 2019 09:10 AM

Saudi officials are investigating a translation error that led to Hajj pilgrims being given gift bags marked “anthrax”, according to local media reports.

Arab News said the Arabic word “Jamarat” was inaccurately translated as “anthrax” – a dangerous and sometimes deadly infectious disease – and was printed on a gift bag given to pilgrims.

The bag contains small pebbles used for the ‘stoning of the devil’, in which pilgrims throw pebbles at three walls – or ‘Jamarat’ – in the city of Mina, east of Makkah.

The Saudi Press Agency has reported that the kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah was notified of the error and opened an investigation into the translator – a contractor – on August 10, before handing them over to authorities for disciplinary action.

The error led to a prominent and popular speaker, American preacher Sheikh Yusuf Estes, to make a video warning for pilgrims.

“Anthrax, where did they get that? They get it from Google. It’s not Google’s fault. Google allows people to tell the meaning of the different languages of words.”

Some observers have noted that the error may have been caused by Google’s auto-suggest function.

For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.