Hajj pilgrims covered by the “Mecca Road” initiative at Indonesia’s Juanda airport. Image Credit: SPA

Cairo: Muslims in Indonesia, planning to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia next month, have this year a wider access to a package of Saudi facilities offered to the faithful from seven countries.

Besides Jakarta, the scheme, officially known as the “Mecca Road” Initiative, has been introduced to the Indonesian cities of Surabaya and Solo.

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At the Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, the pilgrims are received at designated halls by Saudi highly qualified male and female personnel who speak the Indonesian language and distribute them to advanced 12 counters linked to the initiative to process their departure procedures, according to the Saudi news agency SPA.

The first “Mecca Road” flight took off from Juanda Airport on May 12. Each flight has about 300 pilgrims aboard.

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This year, the time-saving facilities are offered at 11 airports in Morocco, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Cote d’Ivoire.

High-quality transport services

In 2018, the Saudi Interior Ministry relaunched the “Mecca Route” that kicked off on a trial basis in 2017.

The initiative aims at offering high-quality transport services to pilgrims of those countries en their route to Saudi Arabia. The facilities include issuance of electronic visas at home, finalising passport procedures as well as tagging and sorting out luggage at the departure airports.

On arrival in Saudi Arabia, those pilgrims head directly to their residences in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina while their luggage are delivered right to their residences.

The Saudi Interior Ministry is implementing the initiative in cooperation with the kingdom’s ministries of foreign affairs, health, Hajj and Media as well as the Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation, the Zakat, Tax and Customs, the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority and the government-run Guests of God Service Programme.

Hajj rites in and around Mecca are expected to begin on June 14, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

More than 2 million Muslims from across the globe are expected to attend upcoming Hajj amid maximum preparations from the agencies concerned in the kingdom.

Hajj is one of Islam’s five obligatory duties. Muslims, who can physically and financially afford Hajj, have to perform it at least once in a lifetime.