Cairo: Hundreds of mosques in the Saudi city of Mecca are prepared to host worshippers in the final days of Ramadan to ease overcrowding at Islam’s holy city in the same city.
The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs said 1,064 mosques in Mecca’s central area are ready to receive the worshippers amid a surge in their numbers at the Grand Mosque, home to the Holy Kaaba, in Mecca.
The ministry cited overcrowding at the holy city due to large numbers of worshippers performing Umrah or minor pilgrimage, and prayers there at what it described as “this exceptional year”.
Ramadan usually marks the peak of Umrah season at the Grand Mosque, particularly in the last 10 days of the month, expected to end on Thursday.
The number of worshippers at the site reached more than 22 million in the first 20 days of Ramadan, according to official Saudi figures.
In recent months, the kingdom has unveiled a host of facilities for Muslims wishing to come to the country to perform Umrah.
Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourism 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 in Medina.
Saudi authorities have also 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.
As part of facilities, Saudi Arabia has said its citizens can apply for visas inviting their friends abroad to visit the kingdom and undertake Umrah.
The kingdom has also announced 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.
Millions of Muslims, who cannot afford the annual Hajj rituals physically or financially, flock to Saudi Arabia to undertake Umrah.