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Saturday, June 15, 2024  
08 Dhul-Hijjah 1445  

Saudi Arabia gears up to receive over two million Hajj pilgrims

Hajj ministry assigns 3,500 staff members to cater to needs of pilgrims
Muslim pilgrims perform Umrah at the Holy Kaaba, as they start arriving to perform the annual Haj at the Grand Mosque, in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia on June 25, 2023. Reuters
Muslim pilgrims perform Umrah at the Holy Kaaba, as they start arriving to perform the annual Haj at the Grand Mosque, in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia on June 25, 2023. Reuters

In anticipation of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi Arabia is making preparations to welcome more than two million pilgrims, who are set to arrive later this month, Gulf News reported.

Both government and private sector entities are collaborating to ensure a smooth and comfortable experience for the faithful as they perform the Hajj rites in and around the holy city of Makkah.

This year, authorities are expecting a surge in the number of pilgrims following the participation of approximately 30 million Muslims, both from within and outside the kingdom, in the Umrah pilgrimage at the Grand Mosque in Makkah during the recently concluded Ramadan. Umrah is considered a precursor to the Hajj.

During Ramadan, around 33 million Muslims offered prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. The Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Airport in Medina received nine million passengers. Many pilgrims traditionally visit Medina before or after performing the Hajj.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj has assigned 3,500 staff members to cater to the needs of pilgrims arriving and departing from Medina. The city has undergone significant renovations, and tour guides have been appointed to assist visitors at various Islamic historic sites.

Last year, approximately 1.8 million Muslims from around the world performed the Hajj, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels in terms of numbers.

This year, Saudi Arabia has implemented a new strategy for overseas pilgrims, where specific places are no longer allocated to countries. Instead, places are assigned based on the timing of contract finalisation.

Saudi Arabia has also issued warnings regarding fraudulent campaigns and websites targeting individuals planning to perform Hajj. The Ministry of Hajj emphasised the importance of relying on official channels to ensure access to the pilgrimage and protect the rights of pilgrims throughout their journey. It is mandatory for all pilgrims to obtain a Hajj permit.

These announcements follow a recent statement by the Council of Senior Scholars, the highest Islamic body in Saudi Arabia, which declared that performing the Hajj without an official permit is considered a sin.

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It merits here to mention that the Hajj flights in Pakistan would start on May 9 and continue till June 9, according to the religious ministry.

Saudi Arabia last year restored Pakistan’s pre-pandemic Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims and abolished the upper age limit of 65 years. Over 81,000 pilgrims performed Hajj under the government scheme in 2023 while the rest used private tour operators.

Pakistan announced the results of a draw for Hajj 2024 in December 2023, with more than 63,000 applicants selected for the pilgrimage under the government scheme.

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