Umrah pilgrims
Umrah pilgrims in the Grand Mosque. Image Credit: Saudi news agency SPA file

Cairo: More than 4.5 million overseas Muslims have arrived in Saudi Arabia in the past six months to perform Umrah or minor pilgrimage, according to official figures released in the kingdom.

The figures, covering the period from the commencement of the Islamic Hijira year in late June until early this week, included 4 million arrivals by air, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said.

Indonesian Umrah pilgrims topped the list with 1 million, followed by Pakistanis, who numbered 792,208. Indian arrivals ranked third with 448,765 followed by Egyptians with 306,480, the figures showed.

Saudi Arabia has in recent months unveiled a host of facilities for Muslims wishing to come to the country to undertake Umrah.

Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourism visas are allowed to undertake Umrah in the Grand Mosque in Makkah 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 after booking an e-appointment.

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.

In yet another facilitating step, Saudi Arabia has said its citizens can apply for visas inviting their friends abroad to visit the kingdom and undertake Umrah.

Late last month, Saudi Arabia launched a stopover transit visa, allowing the holder to perform Umrah, visit the Prophet Mohammad’s Mosque and attend different events across the kingdom. The four-day transit visa is valid for 90 days.

The free-of-charge transit visa is issued automatically with the passenger’s ticket.

Passengers can apply for the transit visa through the electronic platforms of Saudi national carriers.

A digital visa will be issued immediately and sent to the beneficiary via e-mail. The holder can move across the kingdom.

Millions of Muslims, who cannot afford the Hajj rituals physically or financially, annually flock to Saudi Arabia to undertake Umrah.