Umrah pilgrims
Umrah pilgrims in the Grand Mosque. The numbers of Muslims performing Umrah since the start of the season last July are expected to reach 9 million by the end of the upcoming Ramadan. Image Credit: Saudi news agency SPA file

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has said that permits for performing Umrah or minor pilgrimage during the upcoming Islamic holy month of Ramadan can be issued via an electronic platform aimed to facilitate services for the rituals.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah called on Muslims wishing to undertake Umrah in Ramadan to apply for permits via the Nusuk platform.

“Issuing of permits for Ramadan Umrah is open now. For Easy and smooth Umrah, make your reservation via the Nusuk app,” the ministry said on Twitter, addressing would-be pilgrims.

The platform enables Muslims wishing to undertake umrah or visit the holy sites to obtain the necessary visas and permits as well as to book related packages electronically.

Ramadan, due to begin later this month, usually marks the peak of the Umrah season.

Saudi Arabia has in recent months unveiled a host of facilities for Muslims wishing to come to the country to undertake Umrah.

Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourism visas are allowed to undertake Umrah and visit Al Rawda Al Sharifa, where the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) is located in the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina after booking an e-appointment.

Saudi authorities have also extended the Umrah visa from 30 days to 90 and allowed holders to enter the kingdom via all land, air and sea outlets and leave from any airport.

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In yet another facilitating step, Saudi Arabia has said its citizens can apply for visas inviting their friends abroad to visit the kingdom and undertake Umrah.

Saudi Arabia has also issued a stopover transit visa, allowing the holder to perform Umrah, visit the Prophet’s Mosque and attend different events across the kingdom.

The four-day transit visa is valid for 90 days.

Millions of Muslims, who cannot afford the annual Hajj rituals physically or financially, annually flock to Saudi Arabia to undertake Umrah.

Umrah pilgrims set to hit 9 million

Meanwhile, a Saudi official has said the numbers of Muslims performing Umrah since the start of the season last July are expected to reach 9 million by the end of the upcoming Ramadan.

“Ramadan is one of the months when overseas Umrah pilgrims come in large numbers. This year, there is something new, namely the introduction of the tourist visa that allows holder to perform Umrah,’’ added Undersecretary of Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah Amr Al Madah.

He said that the numbers of Umrah pilgrims have so far neared 8 million.

The official cited recent visa facilities offered by Saudi Arabia to undertake Umrah in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

“It has become very easy to obtain an Umrah visa, a matter that makes it easy for the arrival of many pilgrims,’’ he told Saudi-owned TV Al Arabiya.