Saudi Arabia will not put any restrictions on foreign pilgrims coming to perform Umrah, like it did on Haj pilgrims this year, because of the ongoing expansion work at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar has said.
“The reduction in the number of pilgrims will be applied only during the peak Umrah season in Ramadan as well as Haj season. There will not be any restrictions on Umrah pilgrims who intend to perform the minor pilgrimage in the first six months of the Hijri year,” the minister said, allaying concerns of both pilgrims and Umrah service companies.
Ziad Farisy, deputy chairman of Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and spokesman of the National Haj and Umrah Committee, said Umrah firms suffered losses worth SR5 billion as a result of a reduction of pilgrim quota during last Ramadan. Farisy said a special panel has been set up to resolve the dispute between Umrah firms and hotel owners in Makkah following the cut in pilgrim quota.
Hajjar described the last Haj season as the most successful, adding that no major road accidents involving pilgrims had taken place during the season. He was speaking to reporters after an inspection tour of Qawafil, Tamimi and Hafil transport companies.
“My visit was aimed at making sure that these companies are ready for the next Umrah season,” Hajjar said while welcoming transport companies’ plan to purchase new buses to improve their services.
The Kingdom reduced the number of foreign pilgrims by 20 percent and domestic pilgrims by 50 percent during the last Haj season to ensure pilgrim safety.
JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
Published — Friday 15 November 2013
Source: Arab News