450k Umrah pilgrims sent back home amid pandemic

Time: 29 May, 2020

Over 60,000 pilgrims were sent back to their home countries through special flights during the five-day Eid holiday. (AFP)
  • Around 1,500 pilgrims, who were stranded in the country, also left in April.

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah facilitated the return of as many as 450,000 Umrah pilgrims safely to their countries as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Over 60,000 pilgrims were sent back to their home countries through special flights during the five-day Eid holiday, in a first such operation since the suspension of international flights in the Kingdom on March 15.

Around 1,500 pilgrims, who were stranded in the country, also left in April in collaboration with the ministries of foreign affairs, health and interior.

Another 40,000 pilgrims were brought to Makkah from Madinah with the help of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, to complete their rituals.

The ministry also played host to about 2,000 pilgrims, who were not able to go back to their home countries due to the suspension of international flights.

The suspension of Umrah and international flights continues until further notice.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Passport offices open at Jeddah airport to handle Umrah pilgrims

05/06/20

RIYADH: Passport offices at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah opened on Sunday, finalizing the procedures for Umrah pilgrims whose visas have expired and who have overstayed, and who have also applied through the online platform of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

A royal order has been issued to exempt Umrah pilgrims who have overstayed from the legal effects, financial penalties, and from being placed on the list of deportees (the deportee fingerprint) and to ensure their return to their countries under the supervision of the committee responsible for overstaying pilgrims and those who wish to travel.

The passport offices said that in cooperation with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, the Ministry of Health, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, and the competent operational authorities at King Abdul Aziz International Airport, travelers had been received and their departure procedures completed while applying preventive measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia gives Umrah pilgrims who exceed visa opportunity to apply for ‘exemption’

24/03/20

Pilgrims who exceeded their Umrah visa can submit an exemption request to the ministry’s website. (Reuters)
 
  • Pilgrims who exceeded their Umrah visa can submit an exemption request to the ministry’s website

RIYADH: The General Directorate of Passports in Saudi Arabia has said Umrah pilgrims who have exceeded their visa period can apply for an ‘exemption’ to avoid penalties. 

A statement released by the directorate in coordination with the Ministry of Hajj said, pilgrims who exceeded their Umrah visa can submit an exemption request to the ministry’s website.

 

The request includes an exemption from the legal implications and financial penalties involved in delaying their departure. The form should be submitted no later than Saturday, March 28. 

The statement added that the relevant authorities will arrange return flights for the pilgrims.

The authorities will inform the pilgrims of the details and timings of their flights via text to their registered phone numbers.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Ministry: Over 2.7 million Umrah visas issued so far

11/01/20

2,716,858 Umrah visas have been issued since the beginning of this year’s Umrah season. (SPA)
  • 2,716,858 Umrah visas have been issued since the beginning of this year’s Umrah season.

JEDDAH: The official statistics of the Umrah indicator have shown that 2,716,858 Umrah visas have been issued since the beginning of this year’s Umrah season.
According to these statistics, 2,412,572 pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom, while 2,037,631 have already left Saudi Arabia after performing their Umrah.
The numbers also showed that 2,272,163 pilgrims arrived by air, 133,110 arrived by land and 7,299 arrived by sea.Those who arrived included 568,536 Pakistanis, 505,217 Indonesians, 292,822 Indians, 137,834 Egyptians, 124,951 Malaysians, 94,854 Turks, 90,894 Bangladeshis and 89,006 Algerians.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Asian countries top list of pilgrims to Makkah

28/12/19

  • Figures are based on the weekly Umrah Index

JEDDAH: 2,371,441 Umrah visas were issued between Aug. 31 and Dec. 20, 2019. These numbers are based on the weekly Umrah Index.
It measures the number of Umrah visas issued, the total number of Umrah pilgrims arriving to the Kingdom through air, land and sea ports, nationalities of Umrah performers, and the number of pilgrims leaving after completing their pilgrimage.
The most represented nations in terms of pilgrim numbers were Pakistan with 495,270, Indonesia (443,879), India (262,887), Malaysia (116,335), Egypt (104,820), Algeria (80,238), Turkey (78,512), Bangladesh (73,142), UAE (46,370), and Jordan (32,011).

This article was first published in Arab News

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Hajj Minister: 1.1 million pilgrims have arrived in Kingdom since start of Umrah season

25/11/19

Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the minor pilgrimage, known as Umrah, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

  • Pakistan and Indonesia combined accounted for more than half of the pilgrims
  • Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched “inaya” (care) centers to provide comprehensive services pilgrims

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that 1,339,376 Umrah visas have been issued so far for Hijri year 1441, which started on August 31, 2019 in the Gregorian calendar.

The number of pilgrims coming to Saudi Arabia has reached 1,133,365 with 297,491 pilgrims currently in the Kingdom and 835,874 pilgrims having left.

In its statistical report, the ministry noted that 1,088,608 pilgrims had arrived in the Kingdom by air, 44,750 by land and 7 by sea.

By country, 319,494 pilgrims arrived from Pakistan, 306,461 from Indonesia, 195,345 from India, 50,841 from Malaysia, 50,775 from Turkey, 36,021 from Bangladesh, 28,785 from Algeria, 18,146 from Morocco, 16,851 from Iraq and 16,223 from Jordan.

With the beginning of Umrah season, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched “inaya” (care) centers to provide comprehensive services for beneficiaries. The ministry also developed the central booking system MAQAM, that allows Umrah companies, hotel and transportation companies and pilgrims and visitors of the Prophet’s Mosque to contact each other directly, thus achieving the highest standards of control, efficiency and transparency.

MAQAM, in tandem with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Information Center, also issues e-visas without the need for paperwork, as part of efforts exerted to achieve one of the most important goals of Vision 2030, improving the quality of services provided for pilgrims.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia may allow women to perform Hajj without male guardian

Time: October 20, 2019  

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten approved updates to Umrah services. (SPA)
  • Ministry exploring visa options for solo female pilgrims
  • The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally

JEDDAH: Women could be allowed to perform the Hajj without a male guardian, Arab News has learned, with the government studying various visa options. Women are currently required to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimages with a mahram (male guardian), or be met by him on arrival in the Kingdom, although women over the age of 45 may travel without a mahram if they are in an organized tour group.
If women travel with a group and without a mahram they must submit a notarised letter of no objection from someone who could be considered their mahram, authorizing travel for Hajj or Umrah with that group.
But Arab News has learned that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is conducting studies to issue visit visas for both tourism and Umrah purposes, and that this process is expected to pave the way for allowing women to come without the need for a mahram.
It is one of a number of developments in the Hajj and Umrah sector, with Arab News also learning that the ministry was urged to intervene in the sector to save businesses.
Umrah firms have raised their concerns about the impact of regulations, saying they are losing out and warning around 200 companies will be leaving the market if authorities do not step in.
Marwan Abbas Shaban, head of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah, said each Umrah company was obliged to have two branches, employ 20 staff and spend at least SR1 million ($266,666) annually even if it did not receive a single pilgrim. The majority of companies operating in this sector were small and could not bear such costs, he added.
“We always seek officials to interact with us and we call on higher authorities to consider our demands,” he told Arab News.
Shaban said there were about 750 Umrah and Hajj companies with licenses, but only about 500 of these were in the market and they were only running at 1 percent of their capacity.
The Umrah sector was more profitable than the industrial sector, he added, and pointed to the value of land in the holy city of Makkah.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten approved updates to Umrah services following a meeting with the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah to discuss updates to regulations and instructions for Umrah companies.
Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdulfattah Mashat said after the meeting that the updates included allowing all IATA membership categories — including travel agencies, WTO certificates, or a certificate of membership of the World Travel and Tourism Council — as a requirement for the eligibility of an external agent.
The ministry updates also include giving pilgrims greater flexibility on transport options, Mashat added, and can be accessed on a portal that allows Muslims around the world to apply for an Umrah package digitally.
The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally.
Almost 1.1 million people used Maqam in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between over 30 companies providing travel, accommodation and other necessities for trips to Makkah and Madinah.

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First pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia for new Umrah season

Time: September 03, 2019  

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The ministry is seeking to issue Umrah visas for 30 million pilgrims by 2030, (SPA)
  • The ministry is seeking to issue Umrah visas for 30 million pilgrims by 2030, and aims to remove obstacles for businesses offering services to pilgrims

JEDDAH: Saudi Director General of Passports Maj. Gen. Sulaiman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Yahya has welcomed the first flights of Umrah performers from outside the Kingdom at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah. He said the General Directorate of Passports is prepared to receive and complete all procedures of Umrah performers arriving in the Kingdom.
Authorities said last month that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is seeking to issue 10 million visas for this year’s Umrah season. The visas will be issued electronically without the need to visit embassies and consulates for the stamp.
The ministry is seeking to issue Umrah visas for 30 million pilgrims by 2030, and aims to remove obstacles for businesses offering services to pilgrims.
The ministry ensures that all services are available to pilgrims inside and outside the Kingdom through the internet and reliable websites, which pilgrims use when making their bookings.

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Community initiative aims to link doctors, pilgrims

11/08/19

High-tech devices are being provided to needy patients inside their camps. (AN photo by Essam Al-Ghalib)

Drive to facilitate communication between health service providers and Hajjis
MINA: An initiative in Makkah has provided financial support to supply interpreting devices in 120 languages, in partnership with the Community Participation Department of the Makkah Health Department. It is also helping to employ interpreters working around the clock in operations rooms.

Dr. Waddah Abu Talib, director of Mina Al-Jisr Hospital in Mina, said that a number of community bodies and members, including businessmen, in Makkah have participated in this initiative to provide 73 devices that interpret 120 languages, as well as 14 interpreters/translators who are offering their services 24 hours a day through the Ministry of Health.
This initiative aims to facilitate communication between service providers and pilgrims in hospitals and primary care centers in the holy places and Makkah, he said.
The 14 interpreters/translators are working around the clock to provide their services through the Ministry of Health.

100
glucose monitoring devices are being provided for free to patients in need inside their camps.

The languages they cover include English, Persian, Turkish, French, Swahili, Russian and Urdu, which are the most commonly used languages by patients visiting hospitals in Makkah and the holy places.
The supervisor of the Community Participation Program, Mahassen Hassan Shuaib, said that these services are courtesy of the Saudi people, and specifically the people of Makkah, to support the pilgrims in partnership with the Siqaya and Rifada Committee of the Makkah Municipality.
She added: “In addition to that, 100 blood pressure monitoring devices and 100 glucose monitoring devices are being provided for free to patients in need inside their camps, alongside water, umbrellas and shoes.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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International pilgrims express gratitude for the Kingdom’s Hajj efforts

09/08/19

  • President of the Lebanese Islamic Center for Studies and Media said Saudi Hajj efforts are make him proud
  • Religious advisor from New Zealand said Hajj will help victims of Christchurch terror attack heal

DUBAI: Pilgrims from around the world have thanked King Salman for the new services offered during Hajj, state news agency SPA reported on Thursday.

Mused Abduljalil. (SPA)

Mused Abduljalil, a pilgrim from the families of martyrs and Yemen’s national army soldiers’ group, visited Makkah as part of “the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ guests’ program for Hajj and Umrah.”

“When I received King Salman bin Abudlaziz’s invitation to perform Hajj, my emotions were mixed with happiness tears that my dream was coming true,” Abdulmajid said.

Anwar Jaafar Al-Murooj. (SPA)

Meanwhile, Serbia’s senior imam and mufti advisor sheikh Anwar Jaafar Al-Murooj said the Kingdom was a leading power in the Islamic world.

The Saudi support for Muslims from around the world, including those from Serbia specifically, left him speechless, he added.

Khaldoon Oraymet. (SPA)

The president of the Lebanese Islamic Center for Studies and Media, judge and Sheikh Khaldoon Oraymet, said he was happy to join “the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ guests’ program for Hajj and Umrah.”

“What the Kingdom does for pilgrims makes us proud, as despite the hardships in Lebanon we feel like Saudi Arabia will stand in the face of those who want to cause trouble in the Arab world,” he added.

Saeed Abdulaziz. (SPA)

In the meantime, the Mufti of Karelia province in Finland Sheikh Saeed Abdulaziz, who has already previously performed Hajj, said the newly implemented technologies by the Kingdom made the experience easier.

He and his group of pilgrims did not face any problems in commuting between their accommodation and the various places of worship, Abdulaziz added.

Mohammed Haneef Kewazi. (SPA)

Meanwhile, one of the advisors of an Islamic association in New Zealand, Mohammed Haneef Kewazi, thanked the King and the Crown Prince for inviting the families and victims of Christchurch terrorist attack.

The happiness of those pilgrims will help them heal from the pain of the shooting incident, he added.

This article was first published in Arab News

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