Islamabad lauds Saudi’s decision to cancel repeat Umrah fees

10/09/19

Pakistani pilgrims breeze through immigration counters at Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah as part of the “Makkah Route” initiative on July 5, 2019. (SPA)

Pakistanis top list of nationalities to perform Umrah this year
Move will facilitate pilgrims traveling from the country, official says
ISLAMABAD: The spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs (MRA) welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to do away with charges for any Pakistani seeking to perform Umrah more than once.
Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Imran Siddiqui also thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for issuing a royal decree to restructure Hajj, visit, and transit visas.
“Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan had requested Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to look into the matter [following which the] Minister of Religious Affairs, Noor ul Haq Qadri, had also discussed the matter with his Saudi counterpart during Hajj this year,” Siddiqui told Arab News.
According to the Saudi minister for Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Mohammad Salih Bentin, the royal decree is part of the leadership’s initiative “to facilitate the arrival of Muslims from all over the world for Hajj and Umrah.”
Siddiqui said that the move would facilitate several Pakistani nationals who top the list of pilgrims performing Umrah and would increase the “number of Pakistani pilgrims who want to go for the pilgrimage.”
“This year alone, more than 1.6 million Pakistanis performed Umrah,” he said.
Dr. Bentin added that the initiative reflects the Kingdom’s readiness to receive the increasing number of pilgrims which is apparent from the investments in huge infrastructure projects and the development of services in Makkah and Madinah.
The decree supports efforts to achieve one of the most important objectives of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform plan, which hopes to facilitate 30 million Umrah pilgrims by then.

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Health Ministry treats 649,690 Hajj pilgrims

Time: August 24, 2019  

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The number of participants in serving pilgrims this year reached 30,000 employees of the Ministry of Health. (SPA)
  • For the first time this year, the ministry used robotic technology for medical consultations, which gave hospitals in Mina remote access to consultants in micro specialties

RIYADH: The Ministry of Health has revealed specialized services provided by its hospitals and health centers in Makkah, Madinah and holy sites for pilgrims during Hajj.
The ministry said that the number of pilgrims who received treatment in hospitals and health centers reached 649,690.
The number of participants in serving pilgrims this year reached 30,000 employees of the Ministry of Health, while 25 hospitals were prepared in Makkah and Madinah, with a total capacity of 5,000 beds.
For the first time this year, the ministry used robotic technology for medical consultations, which gave hospitals in Mina remote access to consultants in micro specialties.

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Saudi Arabia praised for successful Hajj season

Time: August 13, 2019  

The General Authority for Statistics said that the number of male pilgrims who performed Hajj this year reached 1,385,234, while the number of female pilgrims was 1,104,172. (SPA)
  • Chechnya President Ramzan Akhmadovich Kadyrov extended his congratulations to the king and crown prince on Eid Al-Adha

MINA: King Salman received a phone call from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulating him on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, the Saudi Press Agency reported. Erdogan also lauded the success of Saudia Arabia’s Hajj plans, praising the efforts under the king’s leadership to facilitate the annual pilgrimage for millions of Muslims.
King Salman said the Kingdom would do everything it could so that pilgrims could perform their rituals with ease, security and safety.
Chechnya President Ramzan Akhmadovich Kadyrov also extended his congratulations to the king and crown prince on Eid Al-Adha.
He praised Saudi Arabia for its achievements and services at the holy sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, stressing that these efforts were appreciated and welcomed by all Muslims.
He said the success of the Hajj was a message to anyone doubting the Kingdom’s leading role in the service of the Two Holy Mosques, calling on all Muslims to support Saudi Arabia in the challenges it faced.
The secretary-general of the Arab Red Crescent and Red Cross Organization, Dr. Saleh bin Hamad Al-Tuwaijri, also congratulated King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal on the success of this year’s Hajj season.
Al-Tuwaijri praised the Kingdom’s massive development projects, which are aimed at serving pilgrims and visitors to the Two Holy Mosques.
Egypt’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Omar Marwan expressed his appreciation for the king and crown prince’s services to Hajj. He said that the good planning and wealth of experience among Saudi authorities and agencies meant that pilgrims were able to move between sites smoothly, as well as perform their Hajj rituals with ease.
The chairman of the African Scholars Forum, Sheikh Mohammed Alhafiz Alnahawi, remarked on the development of services provided to pilgrims in Makkah, the holy sites and Madinah.

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First group of Tunisian pilgrims arrive via Makkah Route initiative

25/07/19

The first Makkah Route initiative’s Hajj flight from Tunisia arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The pilgrims who benefited from the initiative lauded efforts to facilitate their travel and enable them to perform their duties with ease and comfort.
(Photo courtesy: SPA)

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Pilgrims with special needs treated to a memorable Umrah trip under Saudi ministry’s Ramadan initiative

Time: May 26, 2019  

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Special Umrah trip for special needs pilgrims. (Supplied photo)
  • Umrah trip held as part of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s “Sadiq Almutamir (Friend of the Pilgrim)” initiative

JEDDAH: Several Muslims with special needs have benefited from a special Umrah pilgrimage organized by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan.

According to statement from the ministry, the Umrah trip, was held on the 17th of Ramadan  (May 22) under the “Sadiq Almutamir (Friend of the Pilgrim)” initiative in partnership with Sawt Alasm association in Jeddah.

A busload of 20 people with special needs were accompanied by 12 volunteers of Sadiq Almutamir, including sign language interpreters for the deaf pilgrims.

The first stop was at Kuday area in Makkah, where pilgrims received the special gifts of Sadiq Almutamir, supported by the Establishment of Motawifs of South East Asian Pilgrims. Next was their arrival at the Grand Mosque, wherein the pilgrims performed Umrah, enjoyed Iftar meals, and received souvenirs from Haji & Mu’tamer’s Gift Association.

Volunteers assisted the pilgrims by communicating with them, providing instructions and directions in addition to sharing their feelings with the support of the sign language interpreters.

Sadiq Almutamir also accompanied pilgrims during the performance of Umrah, providing wheelchairs for the elderly, sharing breakfast, and learning about their impressions of performing Umrah for their first time.

Sadiq Almutamir is one of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s initiatives in Makkah’s Cultural Forum. It focuses on promoting the culture of giving and cooperation between the Saudi youth as well as elevating the volunteering services provided to Umrah pilgrims in order to enrich their experiences. It also provides optional tours to visit attractions, monuments, and places contribute to enriching experiences of Mutamirs and immortalizing beautiful memories in the Kingdom.

Launched late last year, the initiative aims to develop the spirit of volunteerism among Muslims and to invest in the youth by engaging young men and women in service and social responsibility.

“It focuses as well on improving the efficiency level of services provided to pilgrims, promoting the culture of volunteering, helping elderly and special needs’ people to perform Umrah rituals, and finally contributing to the realization of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 of reaching 1 million volunteers annually,” ministry statement said.

The trip was held in cooperation with the Western Fleet Transport, in coordination with the undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for pilgrims’ transportation affairs and Haji & Mu’tamer’s Gift Association.

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Saudis volunteer to aid Makkah pilgrims during Ramadan

Time: May 21, 2019

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Around 1,400 doctors and medical students were volunteering, hoping to make a difference and to serve their country. (SPA)
  • 1,400 doctors and medical students are volunteering

MAKKAH: Saudis are volunteering in Makkah to help pilgrims, dealing with their health issues and any other requirements they may have so their Umrah can be performed with ease.
Doctors, teachers, engineers and government employees are among those giving their time and energy during the holy month of Ramadan to help the millions of Muslims who are in Makkah.
The head of Nabad, a volunteer group, said that medical professionals and other specialists were focusing on nationals and residents through events in malls, hospitals and health centers.
“Nabad has contributed to promoting knowledge among members of civil society and focused on serving widows, divorcees, low-income people, people with special needs and the elderly through events carried out in conjunction with government bodies,” Dr. Yasser Al-Sharif told Arab News.

HIGHLIGHTS

1,400 doctors and medical students are volunteering.

Volunteer groups are promoting knowledge among members of civil society.

Many volunteer activities are focused on serving widows, divorcees and low-income people.

He added that 1,400 doctors and medical students were volunteering, hoping to make a difference and to serve their country.
Al-Sharif said the events were aimed at raising awareness about several programs, including one about health empowerment ambassadors, for guests of the Grand Mosque. Pilgrims are provided with information upon arrival at the airport in different languages, he said.
Rania Shodari is part of a volunteer program for pilgrims, offering them gifts and introducing them to Makkah landmarks, and described the experience as special.
“Volunteering should come from the heart and not be a means to show off,” she told Arab News. “We focus on bringing smiles to pilgrims’ faces and intensifying efforts to reflect real Saudi hospitality, from the moment they arrive until their departure.

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Hajj and Umrah e-visas to be issued in minutes

12/05/19

Muslim pilgrims go through passport control upon their arrival at Jeddah airport on July 14,2018, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. – The Hajj, the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in the lifetime of every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so. (Photo by Amer HILABI / AFP)
The electronic platform will include new services that will give non-Saudis access to the e-portal, where they can review service packages, choose a package and apply for visas electronically. (AFP/ File photo)
  • New service to boost number of pilgrims, says official
  • e-portal will allow pilgrims to review service packages and apply for visas electronically

RIYADH: Electronic visas for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims will be issued within minutes for various Hajj/Umrah campaigns and companies under plans by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

“Pilgrims who are coming from outside the Kingdom are tied to Hajj and Umrah service-providing companies and agents in order to obtain a visa. The electronic visas will be issued to these entities who will be licensed to facilitate Hajj and Umrah in these countries,” Abdulrahman Shams, an adviser to the minister of Hajj and Umrah and general supervisor of Hajj and Umrah’s electronic platform, said on MBC.

Shams said the electronic platform will include new services that will give non-Saudis access to the e-portal, where they can review service packages, choose a package and apply for visas electronically.

“We are working closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior to issue visas electronically, within minutes of completing the required forms, and without the need for passports to go through embassies,” he said.

The move will help encourage greater numbers of pilgrims, he added. Saudi Arabia has issued over 4.33 million Umrah visas this year. The ministry’s move helps facilitate pilgrims’ journeys and minimizes pre-planning. Under Vision 2030, the Kingdom hopes to attract more than 30 million Umrah pilgrims and provide them with top-class services.

In January, the ministry updated its online portal to support foreign pilgrims. Almost 1.1 million Muslims used the Maqam online portal in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between more than 30 companies providing travel and accommodations for trips to Makkah and Madinah.

The ministry has been discussing incorporating e-services since November 2018.

Abdulaziz Al-Wazzan, the deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said the initiative aims to make visas more accessible to pilgrims, while also contributing to an increase in pilgrim numbers.

This article was first published in  Arab News

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Saudi Hajj ministry updates online portal for foreign pilgrims

Time: January 31, 2019

Almost 1.1 million Muslims used the Maqam portal in its trial phase last year. (Salman Al-Marzouki/AN photo)
  • The portal allows pilgrims to apply and compare services digitally before making their trip

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched a package of updates for their Maqam e-portal on Thursday, in a move to simplify pilgrimages for Muslim’s traveling from outside the Kingdom.

The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally. It also compares the prices of competing service providers, checks the status of flights and bookings, and makes electronic visa applications, without the need to travel to an embassy.

It is aimed especially at Muslims traveling from non-Muslim countries, where access to organizations and information for making pilgrimages can be harder to access.

Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Abdul-Fattah bin Sulaiman Mushat said that the updates would simplify pilgrimages for the 30 million people visiting the Kingdom every year.

The site was updated by the Hajj ministry. (Supplied)

Almost 1.1 million Muslims used the Maqam portal in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between over thirty companies providing travel, accommodation and other necessities for the respective trips to Makkah and Madinah.

As well as making life easier for the pilgrims themselves, Maqam has also been a boost for local companies, allowing them to directly target pilgrims around the world with special offers and services tailored to their needs.

Maqam provides e-services in Arabic, English and French, and can be visited at: https://eservices.haj.gov.sa/eservices3

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Ivory Coast praises Saudi Arabia’s efforts to serve pilgrims

Time: December 28, 2018

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Sidiki Diakite was part of an Ivory Coast delegation welcomed by Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Bentin. (SPA)
  • The Saudi minister stressed King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s willingness to offer the best services to pilgrims

JEDDAH: Ivory Coast Minister of Interior and Security Sidiki Diakite has praised Saudi Arabia’s efforts to serve pilgrims during a visit to Makkah.
Diakite was part of an Ivory Coast delegation welcomed by Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Bentin.
During the meeting, the ministers reviewed relations between the two countries, and discussed issues relating to pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors.
The Saudi minister stressed King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s willingness to offer the best services to allow pilgrims to perform their rituals.

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Hajj Ministry’s new goal: Opening up pilgrims to Saudi historical, touristic attractions

Time: October 31, 2018   

Bentin was speaking at a workshop organized by the ministry in cooperation with the emirate of Makkah. (SPA)
  • The ministry has shifted its works to the unified electronic path and is following up feedback of the service providers and recipients

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammad Saleh Bentin urged Umrah companies to improve the quality of their services and announced the launch of new high-standard investment opportunities for companies operating in the sector.

“The real and sustainable gain is the dedication to serving pilgrims,” he said.

Bentin highlighted the professional environment that provides the best services to pilgrims to enrich their experience from arrival to departure after having completed their rituals. He was speaking at the first workshop organized by the ministry to present and discuss the Umrah sector strategy under Vision 2030.

Bentin said that the program for serving pilgrims aims to facilitate arrival procedures for Hajj and Umrah visitors. He stressed that giving the opportunity to a larger number of companies improves competitiveness in services and allows for a wide range of excellent options.

The minister said all sectors of the country are keen to invest their potential, services and workforce in serving pilgrims. “Serving Hajj and Umrah is a national responsibility shared by all,” he said.

Bentin said that the sectors are endeavoring to serve pilgrims and enrich their Hajj and Umrah experience by introducing them to the many historical places and Islamic monuments and by creating a suitable environment.

He also underscored the importance of providing information, using technology and preparing quality initiatives that reflect the attention and care accorded by the Saudi leadership to pilgrims and visitors.

He said the ministry aims to issue Umrah visas throughout the year and without stopping during the Hajj season.

The ministry’s undersecretary, Abdul Aziz Wazzan, presented the Umrah-specific goals, the current Umrah figures and statistics, and the challenges of the sector. Then he presented the main areas in which the strategy and executive plans will operate to improve the quality of Umrah services to suit the growing number of pilgrims and reach efficient procedures through electronic platforms.

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