JEDDAH, 10 January – Saudi Arabia will welcome pilgrims to preform Hajj this year with the same numbers before COVID pandemic, according to the Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah.
The minister also announced that the Kingdom will scrap all age requirements for pilgrims, after three years of restrictions to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
Al-Rabiah made his remarks on Monday at the opening ceremony of “Expo Hajj”, the conference and exhibition of Hajj and Umrah services held in Jeddah from Jan. 9-12, 2023.
He said: “From this year’s Hajj season we will allow Hajj missions from around the world to agree with any authorized company to provide services in the Kingdom.”
“Together with our partners, we launched NUSK platform to facilitate procedures and enrich the experience of the pilgrims.”
He revealed that Umrah pilgrims’ insurance was reduced from SR235 to SR88 by 63 percent. Also, Hajj pilgrims’ insurance was reduced from SR109 to SR29 by 73 percent.
The minister said the Umrah visa was extended from 30 days to 90 days and allows its holder to move all around the Kingdom.
“Any visitor to the Kingdom with any type of visa can perform the Umrah and visit Madinah,” he added.
“We worked with partners to enrich the cultural experience after performing the rituals and developing and activating Islamic historical sites related to the Prophet’s biography.”
He said the Kingdom is working on rehabilitation of 100 Islamic historical sites during the upcoming years.
Al-Rabiah pointed out that the Kingdom invested over SR200 billion in infrastructure of the expansion of the Grand Mosque, which makes it the largest construction project in history.
“We have not neglected the development of facilities and infrastructure, and we have worked with our partners to increase the seat capacity.”
“We established the largest airport in the Kingdom with more than SR40 billion to serve the pilgrims, which is King Abdulaziz Airport,” he added.
Also, he said building the Haramain Express Train costs over SR64 billion, which connects Makkah and Al-Madinah.
One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj must be undertaken by all Muslims who have the means at least once in their lives.
Usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, about 2.5 million people participated in 2019.
From 2009 to 2019, the number of Hajj pilgrims averaged of nearly 2,3 million each year. But after the onset of the pandemic in 2020, authorities announced they would only let 1,000 pilgrims take part.
The following year, they increased the total to 60,000 fully vaccinated Saudi Arabian citizens and residents chosen through a lottery. In the last three years the pilgrimage was limited to vaccinated Muslims under age 65.
The number of Hajj pilgrims reached 899,353 in 2022, as the easing of COVID-19 restrictions prompted the return of more foreign visitors. — Saudi Gazette