Manama: Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has confirmed that Qatar-based pilgrims could fly in from Doha despite the ban on direct flights from the Qatari capital.
The pilgrims, both Qatari nationals and foreigners residing in Qatar, who hold valid pilgrimage permits, can fly with any company, except Qatar Airways, either from Doha or from any other transit airport.
Their arrival and departure will be through Jeddah and Madinah, the two airports that serve pilgrims from all countries.
The name of the company transporting the Qatar-based pilgrims will have to be approved by the Saudi authorities, GACA said in a statement on Sunday, three days after the pilgrimage ministry stressed there was no ban on Qatari nationals performing Umrah or Haj.
The ministry said that Saudi Arabia welcomed all Muslims, including Qatari nationals, performing Umrah or Haj.
It added that Qatari nationals could fly into the kingdom for the Haj as long as they had the necessary documents and flew with companies other than Qatar Airways.
Saudi Arabia on June 5 said that it severed its diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar and closed its airspace to all Qatar-registered air and sea companies.
Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt announced the same measures as a means to make Qatar honour the pledges it signed under the Riyadh Agreement in 2013 and in 2014.
The pilgrimage ministry said that severing diplomatic ties with Qatar did not mean preventing Qataris from performing Umrah at any time of the year or Haj during the pilgrimage season.
Haj, the fifth and last pillar of Islam, is required from all physically-fit and financially able adult Muslims at least once in their lives.
The ritual lasts six days and is performed in and around Makkah in western Saudi Arabia.
Based on the lunar calendar, which is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, the Haj season shifts every year. This year, it is expected to start in late August with Eid Al Adha, the third day of the ritual, on September 1.