Umrah pilgrims congregate around the Holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Image Credit: Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has obligated companies providing services to Muslims performing Umrah to a set of obligatory duties as the pilgrimage season in the kingdom is now in its second month.

Pilgrims’ rights, which must be fulfilled by those companies, include facilitating the faithful’s access to the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina with the required permits, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said.

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Other rights include providing escorts for groups of pilgrims until they complete Umrah rites with each group accompanied by one staff member.

Moreover, the Umrah companies are obligated to coordinate with competent state agencies in Saudi Arabia to provide services for the Umrah pilgrims during contingencies including accidents, security measures and health emergencies.

Saudi Arabia expects around 10 million Muslims from abroad to make Umrah pilgrimage during the current season.

The season began after the end of annual Islamic Hajj pilgrimage that around 1.8 million Muslims attended for the first time in three years after pandemic-related restrictions were lifted.

Muslims, who cannot physically or financially afford Hajj, go to Saudi Arabia to undertake Umrah at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia has unveiled a host of facilities for overseas Muslims to come to the country to do Umrah.

Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourist visas are allowed to undertake Umrah and visit Al Rawda Al Sharifa, where the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) is located at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina after booking an e-appointment.

Saudi authorities have extended the Umrah visa from 30 days to 90 and allowed holders to enter the kingdom via all land, air and sea outlets and leave from any airport.

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

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia announced adding eight more countries to its visit e-visa system, allowing their nationals to come to the kingdom for Umrah and tourism, raising the total number of countries whose citizens have access to this system to 57.

Holders of the Schengen, US and UK visas can also book appointments for Umrah and visiting Al Rawda Al Sharifa, via the Nusuk app before arrival in Saudi Arabia.