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Qatari pilgrims welcomed in Saudi Arabia as ‘guests of God’

A total of 350 vehicles used the border crossing, some for pilgrimage and others for humanitarian reasons

  • King Salman with Shaikh Abdullah in Tangier, Morocco, last week. Some media outlets close to the alliance portImage Credit: SPA
  • This file photo taken on June 23, 2017 shows a general view of the Qatari side of the Abu Samrah border crossiImage Credit: AFP
Gulf News

Manama: The head of customs at the Salwa border crossing in Saudi Arabia said that 130 Qatari pilgrims used the facility to drive into the kingdom in the first 24 hours following its re-opening.

“Around 50 vehicles packed with Qatari pilgrims crossed into Saudi Arabia so far,” Othman Al Ghamdi said, quoted by Saudi daily Al Riyadh.

He said other cars passed through for “humanitarian reasons” without specifying, and that around 350 vehicles crossed in total.

All border agents treated the pilgrims with the utmost respect and as as “Guests of God”, Al Ghamdi added.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed their diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar on June 5 and closed its borders to Qatari nationals.

Riyadh said that Qatari pilgrims were not banned from pilgrimage but the land border would remained closed.

Qatari pilgrims were directed to fly into the two international airports on the west coast, Jeddah and Madinah, to reach Makkah and perform Haj.

However, on Thursday, King Salman ordered the re-opening of the Salwa land border crossing, offered to pay for Qataris flying from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province airports to Jeddah or Medina or flying from Qatar on Saudi Arabian Airlines, and waives electronic permits for Qatari pilgrims.

The decisions, unprecedented for any Islamic nation, drew praise on social media and were welcomed by Qatar.

Haj, the fifth pillar of Islam, is required from all physically-fit and financially-able adult Muslims at least once.

Based on the lunar Islamic calendar, the six-day Haj season is expected to start on August 30.

However, most pilgrims opt to be in Makkah or Madinah, the second most sacred city for Muslims, days and sometimes weeks ahead of the spiritual gathering which is expected to draw around two million people.