A Saudi passport official welcomes Indonesian pilgrims. Image Credit: SPA

Cairo: A Saudi plan offering facilities for Muslims registering to perform annual Hajj pilgrims stands to benefit more than 50,000 Indonesians this year, a Saudi envoy has said.

“The Mecca Route Initiative targets finalising entry procedures for over 50,000 Indonesian pilgrims before they leave their home country to Saudi Arabia,” Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Faisal Al Amoudi said.

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He added in remarks to Al Arabiya TV that he has personally felt the positive response to this project in Indonesia at different levels.

“There are very close cooperation and coordination between the embassy, the Saudi team and cadres tasked with implementing this initiative,” he said.

In 2018, the Saudi Interior Ministry relaunched the “Meccaa Route” Initiative that gives pilgrims from several countries access to facilities including finalising Hajj-related procedures in their home countries.

The initiative kicked off on a trial basis in 2017. This year, it is applied to seven countries, namely, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Morocco, Bangladesh and Turkey and Cote d’Ivoire.

The first groups of pilgrims from Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Turkey have already landed in Saudi Arabia.

According to this project, the facilities offered to pilgrims include issuance of electronic visas at home, finalising passport procedures as well as tagging and sorting out luggage at the departure airports.

On arrival in Saudi Arabia, those pilgrims head directly to their residences in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina while their luggage are delivered right to their residences.

Hajj, one of Islam’s five obligatory duties, is due in the final week of this month.

Muslims, who can physically and financially afford Hajj, have to perform it at least once in a lifetime.

Saudi Arabia has said there will be no limits on the numbers of pilgrims from around the world for the upcoming Hajj season, reversing earlier restrictions prompted by the global pandemic.

In the past two years, Saudi Arabia downsized the numbers of Muslims allowed to perform the Hajj rites to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Around 2.5 million Muslims used to attend Hajj annually in the pre-pandemic times.