Makkah: Since the beginning of Ramadan, there has been a huge rise in the number of Umrah pilgrims to Makkah from within the Kingdom and abroad. This has been resulted in tariffs shooting up in hotels and rooms in residential buildings in the Central Haram area by up to 150 per cent. On a tour to several hotels and residential buildings in the area on Tuesday, Gulf News witnessed most hotels and furnished apartments are almost full to their capacity. Price for a suite at a five star hotel has soared to 3,000 Saudi riyals (Dh2,900) while an ordinary room costs 950 riyals.

Hotel owners and operators of rented apartments said that there are at least 400,000 Umrah pilgrims, including 250,000 foreign pilgrims, in the city at present. Hotels and residential buildings in the Central Haram area are struggling to cope with the huge rush. This was mainly attributed to the arrival of a record number of over 50 million Umrah pilgrims this year, and demolition of thousands of buildings for the ongoing largest ever expansion in the history of the Haram Mosque. More than 2,000 buildings have already been demolished for the same. About 1,000 buildings and houses have also been demolished for the giant commercial and residential project of Jabal Omar coming up close to the Haram Mosque.

According to estimates, Iranians top the number of foreign pilgrims, followed by Egyptians and South East Asia, especially from Indonesia and Malaysia. There are an equal number of pilgrims from within the Kingdom as well as from the neighbouring GCC states.

Hotels and residential buildings in Madinah have also seen the occupancy rates jump to 90 per cent. The second holy city is also witnessing huge flow of Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the Prophet's (PBUH) Mosque.