Manama: Saudi and Kuwaiti officials have agreed that 14,000 Kuwait-based Muslims will be allowed to perform Haj next month.
According to the quota approved by the two countries at a high-level meeting in Saudi Arabia, 10,000 Kuwaiti citizens and 4,000 foreigners working in Kuwait will be allowed to undertake the trip to Makkah for the pilgrimage.
Islam requires physically fit adult Muslims with the necessary financial means to perform Haj at least once in their lives.
A Haj quota was introduced in 1987 following an agreement by all member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that the number of pilgrims allowed by each country would be 0.1 per cent of its population.
Mutlaq Al Qarawi, Kuwait’s Islamic affairs assistant undersecretary for technical coordination, external relations and Haj, said that around 90 per cent of the would-be pilgrims would be flying into Saudi Arabia and that the remaining 10 per cent would be travelling overland.
“The Kuwaiti would-be pilgrims will be travelling with 70 Haj operators and will be divided into three categories,” Al Qarawi said, Saudi media reported on Monday.
Unlike foreigners, Kuwaiti nationals do not need visas to enter Saudi Arabia under an agreement between the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — to waive restrictions on travel within the bloc for nationals. However, the GCC nationals need to register with a Haj agency to be able to enter Makkah during the Haj season.
Under Saudi Arabia’s laws, no Haj applicant can enter the country if he or she is not registered with a tour operator.
The rule is in place to ensure there are no clandestine operations or the smuggling of people into the country on the pretext of performing Haj. Riyadh has also often reported that several Haj applicants overstay their pilgrimage visas and seek to settle in Saudi Arabia without proper documents.
Around three million people performed Haj last year.
Haj, based on the lunar calendar consisting of 12 lunar months in a year of 354 or 355 days, is expected to start between October 24-29 this year.