Thai Umrah pilgrims arrive at the King Abdulaziz airport in Jeddah.
Umrah pilgrims arrive at the King Abdulaziz airport in Jeddah in a file photo. Image Credit: Okaz

Dubai: Saudi Arabia will allow women aged 18 to 65 to perform the Umrah pilgrimage without a male guardian, known as a “mahram,” on the condition that they are part of a group, local media reported.

The new decision, announced by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, requires women applying for Umrah or Hajj pilgrimage to be partially vaccinated (one dose). They must also be free of any diseases. Residents from inside the Kingdom and Saudi citizens, who had not performed Hajj during the last 5 years, can register for this year’s Hajj.

In 2021, the Hajj ministry officially allowed women of all ages to make the pilgrimage without “mahram,” on the condition that they must be part of a group.

The decision is part of social reforms rolled out by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is trying to open up the Kingdom’s oil-reliant economy. Since he became the crown prince, women have been allowed to drive and travel abroad without a male guardian.

Umrah is sometimes known as the lesser pilgrimage or the minor pilgrimage, in comparison to the annual Hajj pilgrimage of Islam. It is a visit Muslims take to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, outside of the designated Hajj pilgrimage dates. The word “umrah” in Arabic means to visit an important place.

Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims and a must for able-bodied people with the means to do so at least once in their lifetime. It is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, which is considered as holiest city for Muslims.