Cairo: More than 70,000 Saudi citizens and foreign Muslim residents have so far registered for performing this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, almost a week after registration opened at a platform for domestic pilgrims, a Saudi official has said.
Saudi Arabia this week 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 COVID-19 pandemic in the past two years.
The kingdom has also said domestic pilgrims can pay fees of Hajj for this year’s pilgrimage in three instalments not in one go as was the case before, as authorities have opened registration from inside the kingdom.
“Allowing payment of the cost in three instalments instead of paying the full fees five months before the Hajj time aims to make things easy for pilgrims,” Saudi Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdul Fattah Mashat told Saudi television Al Ekhbariya.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah earlier this week explained that domestic pilgrims are allowed to pay 20 per cent of the cost as a first instalment within 72 hours of making the reservation.
The deadline for paying the second instalment of 40 per cent of the total cost is set for 7/7/1444AH of the Rajab month, which is expected to start later this month.
The third and last instalment must be paid by 10/10/1444, i.e. less than two months before the onset of the Hajj season due in late June this year.
Last Thursday, the ministry announced opening electronic registration for Saudi citizens and Muslim expatriates living in Saudi Arabia who want to perform Hajj this year.
They can apply via the ministry’s website, or the Nusuk platform.
Domestic pilgrims are selected randomly through an online lottery system after being approved to perform Hajj, one of Islam’s five obligatory duties.
The ministry has unveiled four packages for domestic pilgrims wishing to attend the 2023 Hajj with costs ranging from SR,3984 to SR11,841.
The nusuk.sa platform originally enables Muslims wishing to undertake Umrah or visit the holy sites in Saudi Arabia to obtain the necessary visas and permits as well as to book related packages electronically.
Women are allowed this year to perform Hajj without male guardians.
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.
Muslims, who can physically and financially afford Hajj, have to perform it at least once in a lifetime.