File image Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has advised overseas Muslims, planning to go to the kingdom to perform Umrah or lesser pilgrimage, against dealing with unlicensed agents.

“Dealing with licensed companies guarantee your rights,” the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said, addressing would-be pilgrims.

The ministry advised them to log onto its website and check a list of licensed agents in their home countries via the link

Saudi Arabia expects around 10 million Muslims from abroad to do Umrah during the current season.

The season commenced weeks ago, timed with the start of the new Islamic Hijri year.

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 undertake Umrah at the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site in Mecca.

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 Mohammed (PBUH) is located at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina after booking an e-appointment.

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

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.

Earlier this 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.