Manama: More than 440 Qataris have so far used the Salwa border crossing to drive into Saudi Arabia and head towards Makkah to perform Haj.
The crossing, shut down on June 5, was re-opened last week following the successful mediation of Shaikh Abdullah Bin Ali Al Thani, a Qatari national who was received by King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
“The number of Qatari pilgrims has by 5 pm on Monday reached 443,” Prince Khalid Al Faisal, the emir of Makkah and advisor to King Salman, said as he chaired the central Haj committee in Makkah.
The total number of would-be pilgrims who have arrived in Saudi Arabia by Monday evening was 1,207,000, he added.
Prince Khalid said that he expected that 2,038,000 Muslims would perform Haj this year, an increase of 11 per cent over last year.
He added that 235,154 people were turned back from Makkah for violating the regulations governing Haj.
Under the regulations, no-one, regardless of his or her nationality, is allowed into Makkah if they did not have a valid permit.
Al Faisal added that 120,000 vehicles were also turned back for carrying “illegal” Haj aspirants.
The authorities discovered 64 bogus Haj operators and dealt with 1,899 people who were transporting would-be pilgrims illegally, he said.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly warned that it was applying a zero-tolerance policy towards would-be pilgrims, transporters and Haj operators who failed to comply with the regulations.
Al Faisal said that Iranians were being treated like all other people keen on performing Haj and that there were no special conditions put forward by Saudi Arabia.
“We welcome all pilgrims and we provide our services without any form of discrimination,” he was quoted as saying.
Iranians were last year prevented by their government from performing Haj following a dispute with the Saudi authorities over special arrangements.