Groups of Umrah pilgrims pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Image Credit: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

Cairo: Saudi authorities have alerted Muslims planning to perform Umrah or lesser pilgrimage to get physically prepared for the rites.

The faithful have to prepare for undertaking the rites at the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site in Mecca, by observing a set of steps that put them in a fine physical form.

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The steps include shunning heavy food, drinking enough fluids, go on a walk in the days preceding the rituals, taking medicines on time, and moisturise body to avoid skin abrasions, according to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

The pilgrims are, moreover, advised to bathe with warm water before heading to the Grand Mosque and sleep enough on the eve of Umrah rites.

Saudi Arabia expects around 10 million Muslims from abroad to make Umrah pilgrimage during the current season that got underway more than a month ago.

The season began after the end of annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage that around 1.8 million Muslims attended for the first time in three years after pandemic-related restrictions were lifted.

Muslims, who cannot physically or financially afford Hajj, go to Saudi Arabia to make Umrah pilgrimage.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia has unveiled a host of facilities for overseas Muslims to come to the country to do Umrah.

Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourist visas are allowed to undertake Umrah and visit Al Rawda Al Sharifa, where the tomb of the Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) is located at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina af-ter booking an e-appointment.

Saudi authorities have extended the Umrah visa from 30 days to 90 and al-lowed holders to enter the kingdom via all land, air and sea outlets and leave from any airport. Women pilgrims are no longer required to be es-corted by male guardians. The kingdom has also said that expatriates residing in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries are eligible to apply for a tourist visa, regardless of their profession, and be able to perform Umrah.

Last month, Saudi Arabia announced adding eight more countries to its visit e-visa system, allowing their nationals to come to the kingdom for Umrah and tourism, raising the total number of countries whose citizens have access to this system to 57.

Holders of the Schengen, US and UK visas can also book appointments for Umrah and visiting Al Rawda Al Sharifa, via the Nusuk app before arrival in Saudi Arabia.