Cairo: Saudi Arabia is prepared to receive 2 million Muslim pilgrims at this year’s Hajj as the kingdom has lifted pandemic-induced limits, a senior government official has said.
The figure includes 41,300 pilgrims from Algeria, Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al Rabeah added during a visit to Algiers, Okaz newspaper reported.
The official cited facilities provided by Saudi Arabia for Muslims wishing to arrive in the kingdom to undertake Umrah or minor pilgrimage, including holders of different visas and issuance of related visas in less than 24 hours.
Referring to services targeting pilgrims, Al Rabeah mentioned SR200 billion projects designed to cope with an anticipated rise in numbers of pilgrims and a high-speed rail service linking the holy cities of Makkah and Medina.
“The ministry and all parties engaged in the Hajj and Umrah system are keen to provide the best health and logistics services to all pilgrims in a way saving time and effort,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has said there will be no limits on the numbers of pilgrims from around the world for the upcoming Hajj season, reversing earlier restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past two years, Saudi Arabia downsized the numbers of Muslims allowed to perform Hajj to prevent spread of COVID-19.
Overseas individual pilgrims are expected soon to be allowed to apply for this year’s Hajj via electronic registration, Saudi media reported.
Muslims, who can physically and financially afford Hajj, have to perform it at least once in a lifetime.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia has unveiled a set of facilities for Muslims wishing to perform umrah at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and visit religious sites in the kingdom.
Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourism visas are allowed to undertake Umrah.
Saudi Arabia has recently launched an electronic platform, designed to facilitate access to Umrah services including visits to Makkah and Medina.
Saudi authorities have also extended Umrah visa from 30 days to 90 and allowed holders to enter the kingdom via all land, air and sea outlets.
In yet a new facilitating step, Saudi Arabia has said its citizens can apply to invite their friends abroad to visit the kingdom and perform umrah.
Millions of Muslims, who cannot afford the Hajj rites physically or financially, annually flock to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.