SAUDI GRAND-1681383885763
The faithful performing evening prayers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca on April 12, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has urged overseas Muslims, arriving in the country to undertake Umrah or minor pilgrimage, to abide by performing the rites within the 90-day limit.

The Ministry of Health and Umrah pointed out that the Umrah visa does not allow the holder to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The ministry also underlined the necessity of completing the Umrah rites at the Grand Mosque in Mecca and leave the kingdom before the visa expires.

The exhortation comes amid increasing numbers of Umrah pilgrims at the Grand Mosque during Ramadan, the peak season of the lesser pilgrimage.

Some 9.6 million worshippers benefitted from services during performing Umrah and prayers at the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, in the first 20 days of Ramadan, according to official figures.

Saudi authorities have urged worshippers to follow a set of steps to help ease congestion at the mosque during Ramadan.

They include being content with one Umrah, making their reservations enough time before undertaking the rites and abiding by the timings specified in related permits.

Slew of facilities

Other recommendations include avoiding carrying large luggage on coming to the Grand Mosque, performing prayers in designated places without blocking corridors and cooperating with security personnel posted at the two mosques.

Umrah at the Grand Mosque surges particularly during the last 10 days of Ramadan.

Saudi Arabia has in recent months unveiled a slew of facilities for overseas Muslims wishing to undertake Umrah.

The facilities apply to Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourism visas.

Saudi authorities have also 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.

In yet another facilitating step, Saudi Arabia has said its citizens can apply for visas inviting their friends abroad to visit the kingdom and undertake Umrah.

Saudi Arabia has, moreover, issued a stopover transit visa, allowing the holder to perform Umrah, visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina and attend different events across the kingdom.

The four-day transit visa is valid for 90 days.

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.