Umrah pilgrims
Umrah pilgrims arrive in the Grand Mosque. Image Credit: Saudi news agency SPA file

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has issued 4 million visas for overseas Muslims to perform Umrah or lesser pilgrimage since the start of the current season in July, the kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has said.

The issuance has come as part of the ministry’s efforts in partnership with other sectors in Saudi Arabia to facilitate Umrah pilgrims’ arrival and have access to high-quality services, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported.

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

Saudi Arabia has recently launched an electronic platform, designed to facilitate access to Umrah services including visits to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

The platform enables Muslims wishing to undertake Umrah or visit the holy sites to obtain the necessary visas and permits as well as to book related packages electronically.

Saudi authorities have also extended Umrah visa from 30 days to 90 and allowed holders to enter the kingdom via all land, air and sea outlets.

In yet a new facilitating step, Saudi Arabia said earlier this month that its citizens can apply to invite their friends abroad to visit the kingdom and undertake Umrah.

The Saudi foreign ministry said citizens can apply for the personal visit visa via its e-visa platform, allowing the holder to perform Umrah and move across the kingdom including the religious and historical sites.

Millions of Muslims, who cannot afford the Hajj rituals physically or financially, annually flock to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.