Cairo: Saudi authorities have announced instructions for Muslims wishing to enter the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, in Mecca to undertake umrah, days before the commencement of the new season for minor pilgrimage.
The kingdom’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has required umrah pilgrims to be in good health as shown in the smartphone app Tawakkalna and to wear face masks during presence in the Grand Mosque.
The faithful are also required to leave the mosque following the expiry of their entry permits and to avoid bringing in luggage into the site during entry for the rituals.
The new umrah season is due to start on the first day of Al Muharram, the first month in the lunar Islamic calendar expected to begin on July 30 according to astronomical calculations.
Authorities in the kingdom have geared up for the new season that is expected to draw more than 10 million Muslims, according to officials.
The General Presidency for Affairs of the Two Mosques has said it has finalised preparations for umrah rituals booked via the smartphone app Eatmarna.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia scrapped licences of five umrah companies for breaching their obligations in serving pilgrims, local media reported.
The decision was made by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, which accused the five firms of having backtracked on their obligations and services.
“The licences of the five companies have been cancelled for shortcomings in undertaking their obligations towards umrah pilgrims,” the ministry said without naming the firms.
It added that legal procedures would be taken against these companies and “appropriate penalties” would be meted out against them.
In October 2020, Saudi Arabia gradually resumed umrah after about seven months of suspension due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Muslims who cannot afford the cost of the annual Hajj pilgrimage usually undertake umrah in the Grand Mosque.
Nearly 900,000 pilgrims mostly from outside Saudi Arabia performed this year’s Hajj that ended earlier this month, after the kingdom relaxed curbs against the COVID-19 pandemic that had prompted authorities there to limit the rites to domestic pilgrims for two years.