Hajj saudi arabia grand mosque
Worshippers throng the courtyard of the Grand Mosque around the Holy Kaaba. Image Credit: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj

Cairo: Saudi Arabia will consider expanding an “economical package” for domestic pilgrims in next year’s Islamic Hajj pilgrimage, a Saudi official has said, as nearly 2 million Muslims completed the annual rites in the kingdom.

“The ministry will study expanding the economical package initiative for next year’s Hajj,” Saudi Deputy Minister of Hajj Abdulfatah Mashat told Al Ekhbariya TV.

The package, starting from SR3,984 depending on services, aims at meeting needs of pilgrims by providing choices suiting their financial capabilities. The package can be paid in full or over three instalments.

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The official said that utilisation of advanced technology and coordination among different sectors contributed to success of this year’s Hajj season. They included the introduction of self-drive buses and virtual reality glasses to monitor compliance of vehicles transporting pilgrims with rules.

Saudi Arabia has lifted limits on the numbers and ages of pilgrims from around the world for the Hajj season, reversing earlier restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 1.8 million pilgrims, including 1.6 million from abroad, attended this year’s Hajj, according to Saudi official figures.

Earlier this week, Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfik Al Rabiah disclosed a new mechanism for next year’s Hajj based on early preparations and contracting.

He said places for different countries in the next pilgrimage will be designated depending on finalising contracts.

“From now on, each country will start getting ready for the next year’s Hajj to guarantee delivery of high-quality services to Guests of Allah,” Al Rabiah added.

“The country that concludes early contracts will be given the priority in taking the appropriate places at the holy places,” he said.

According to the new arrangements, the issuance of Hajj visas will commence on March 1 and end on the 20th of Shawwal, the 10th month of the Islamic lunar calendar corresponding to April 29.

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.