The proposed low-cost Hajj package targets only expatriates with legal residency in Mecca and Saudi citizens. Image Credit: SPA Via Reuters

Cairo: In a move aimed at curtailing illegal pilgrims, Saudi Arabia is considering the introduction of a one-day package restricted to residents of the holy city of Mecca and allowing them to attend the Day of Arafat, which marks the peak of the annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage, according to a Saudi media report.

The proposed low-cost package targets only expatriates with legal residency in Mecca and Saudi citizens, Al Watan newspaper said.

The pre-paid package does not entail accommodation in Arafat, southeast of Mecca, and Mina, two holy sites linked to the Hajj rites.

Instead, the beneficiaries would gather at assembly points where they are transported to Arafat after the noon prayers. Those pilgrims would obtain a Hajj permit after proving they did not perform Hajj in the past and provide their residency addresses in Mecca.

Click here to get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

According to the reported arrangement, they would remain inside buses while in Arafat before later in the day heading to Al Muzdalifah where they collect pebbles for the ritual devil-stoning in the valley of Mina, located east of Mecca, the following day.

They would spend the night in their houses in Mecca after several Muslim scholars have permitted this for Mecca residents who have no accommodation in Mina, the report said.

There was no comment from the Saudi Ministry of Hajj.

Initiative hailed

Some Mecca residents have hailed the envisaged initiative.

“Such low-cost and facilitated packages enable those who have not undertaken this duty (Hajj) to do it,” said Talal Al Zahrani, a Saudi citizen. “It would also tackle the phenomenon of Hajj without a permit, particularly for the Mecca residents, whether they are citizens or expatriates. Accordingly, the number of violators would be drastically low,” he added.

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.

Pilgrims cautioned

Saudi Authorities have repeatedly cautioned Muslims planning to perform Hajj of fake campaigns and websites and defined associated legal channels.

Starting June 2, Saudi Arabia will enforce penalties against Muslims caught trying to illegally perform Hajj in and around Mecca.

Violators of Hajj regulations, be they citizens, foreign residents or visitors, are liable to a fine of SR10,000.

Violating expatriates will also be deported and barred from re-entry to the kingdom. The fine will double on repetition.

A person caught transporting violators of the Hajj-related instructions and illegal pilgrims, meanwhile, faces jailing for up to six months and a maximum fine of SR50,000. If the transporter is an expatriate, the offender will be deported from the kingdom after serving the term.