Umrah pilgrims throng the courtyard around the Holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque. Image Credit: Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has encouraged overseas Muslims planning to perform Umrah or minor pilgrimage to book for the trip via a government platform that features facilities.

The kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has highlighted advantages of planning Umrah via the platform officially known as Nusuk.

A plan to undertake the Umrah rites at the Grand Mosque in Mecca starts with obtaining an entry visa via Nusuk and get access to a list of hotels located near the holy site as well as the Prophet’s Mosque, Islam’s second holiest place, in Medina.

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Other advantages of Nusuk include services in nine languages, direct communication with the Umrah service providers and availability of a guidebook to Islamic historic sites, the ministry added on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Last year, Saudi Arabia launched Nusuk to facilitate procedures for Umrah pilgrims and visitors of the holy cities Mecca and Medina.

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

Saudi Arabia expects around 10 million Muslims from abroad to make Umrah pilgrimage during the current season that got underway nearly two months ago.

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 make Umrah pilgrimage.

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 Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) is located at the Prophet’s Mosque 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. Women pilgrims are no longer required to be escorted by male guardians.

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.