Saudi robot sterilise hajj covid mosque
A smart sterilising robot at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has said that domestic pilgrims, who applied to perform this year’s Islamic Hajj pilgrimage but have failed to pay the second instalment of the cost, have their reservations cancelled.

Last month, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said domestic pilgrims can pay the cost of Hajj for this year’s pilgrimage in three instalments, unlike before when the fees were paid in one go.

The ministry explained that such pilgrims are allowed to pay 20 per cent of the cost as a first instalment within 72 hours of making the reservation.

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The deadline for paying the second instalment of 40 per cent of the total cost was set for 7/7/1444AH, referring to the lunar Islamic month of Rajab, which started in late January. The deadline for paying the second instalment expired on Sunday.

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.

The ministry has noted that the option for domestic pilgrims to pay in instalments ended on 4/7/1444AH, Okaz newspaper reported.

Defaulters on paying the second instalment, however, have the chance to apply for a new reservation depending on seats still available in Hajj packages. Such reservations are accessible via the ministry’s website and the Nusuk platform until 7/12/1444AH, or until the numbers of pilgrims for this year’s Hajj are completed.

Muslim pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia must hold a national identity card or a valid residency permit. Domestic pilgrims are selected randomly through an online lottery system after being approved to perform Hajj, one of Islam’s five obligatory duties.

In event of fully paying the Hajj cost and get a confirmed reservation, a pilgrimage permit is issued for the domestic pilgrim from the Interior Ministry.

Starting from 15/10/1444AH, the applicant can get a printout of the Hajj permit via the Absher platform after obtaining a text message including the number of the issued permit, according to the Ministry of Hajj.

The ministry had earlier unveiled four packages for domestic pilgrims wishing to attend the 2023 Hajj with costs ranging from SR,3984 to SR11,841.

According to the ministry, details of these packages and transportation fees depend on types of transport means and the pilgrim’s departure city en route to Hajj.

Saudi Arabia has 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.

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.