Rows of worshippers pray at the Grand Mosque that houses the Holy Kaaba. Image Credit: Source: Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

Cairo: Saudi authorities have exhorted Muslims performing Umrah to avoid crowding as the minor pilgrimage season reaches its peak in the holy city of Mecca.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has urged the faithful to manifest altruism to head off congestion and jostling at the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest place.

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“Altruism is a sign of the righteous everywhere. And here (The Grand Mosque) where reward doubles, let’s make it a motto and a proof of compassion and cooperation,” the ministry said.

The pilgrims and other worshippers at the mosque are also urged to follow instructions of security personnel posted at the sprawling site and give priority to women and the elderly there.

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The ministry stressed the importance for the pilgrims to abide by discipline and their designated turns.

Muslims, who cannot physically or financially afford annual Hajj pilgrimage, go to Saudi Arabia to undertake Umrah.

The numbers of Umrah pilgrims reached record 13.5 million last year, Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al Rabiah said last month.

Saudi Arabia, Islam’s birthplace, has in recent months unveiled a host of facilities for Muslims wishing to come to the country for Umrah including cuts in associated health insurance fees.

Visa holders are allowed to enter the kingdom via all land, air and sea outlets.

Saudi Arabia has allowed its citizens to apply for inviting their friends abroad to visit the kingdom and undertake Umrah. Women pilgrims are no longer required to be escorted by male guardians.

The kingdom has also said that expatriates residing in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries including Oman are eligible to apply for a tourist visa, regardless of their profession, and be able to perform Umrah.

The kingdom has set up Nusuk, a platform enabling Muslims wishing to undertake Umrah or visit the holy sites there to obtain the necessary visas and permits as well as to book related packages electronically.