Cairo: Saudi Arabia has put its airports and other entry points on alert to handle an expected surge in the numbers of overseas Muslims arriving in the kingdom to perform Umrah or minor pilgrimage in the last days of Ramadan, a security official has said.
“Full readiness has been raised at all sea, air and land entry points to secure the smooth finalisation of arrival procedures for pilgrims,” Major General Saleh Al Murabah, the deputy chief of the Saudi General Directorate of Passports added.
Speaking at a press conference Mecca, the official cited an upsurge in the numbers of pilgrim arrivals in the kingdom during Ramadan when Umrah usually peaks.
“The entry points, which see the largest numbers of pilgrims have been provided with qualified male and female human resources who can speak several languages and offer high-quality services,” Major General Al Murabah added.
Large numbers of Muslims from inside and outside Saudi Arabia usually go to the Grand Mosque in Mecca during Ramadan.
As many as 19.6 million Muslims got access to the holy site for performing prayers and Umrah in the first 20 days of Ramadan, according to figures from the General Presidency in charge of the Grand Mosque.
Saudi Arabia has in recent months unveiled a slew of facilities for Muslims wishing to come to the country to undertake Umrah.
The facilities apply to Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourism visas.
The kingdom has also said expatriates residing in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are eligible to apply for a tourist visa, regardless of their profession, allowing them to undertake Umrah.
Millions of Muslims, who cannot afford the annual Hajj rituals physically or financially, annually flock to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.