The flow of Umrah pilgrims to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah has gained momentum
Riyadh: With the Holy Month of Ramadan is around the corner, the flow of Umrah pilgrims to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah has gained momentum. The annual Umrah season reaches its climax during Ramadan as many Muslims are keen to grab the rewards of performing the lesser pilgrimage during the holy month. Moreover, a large number of families in the Kingdom as well as other GCC and Arab states prefer to spend a part of their current summer vacation in the vicinity of Islam’s holiest shrines. All these factors have contributed to a huge increase in the number of pilgrims in the current season, according to sources at Umrah service companies.
There has been an increase of 9 per cent in the number of Umrah pilgrims reaching 621000 in June (Rajab) comparing with 571602 in the previous month. The number of pilgrims came by air shot up 68 per cent with a total of 2145737 during the current year, comparing with the same period last year where as there was an increase of 17 per cent and one percent in the number of those came by road (531198) and by sea (28860) respectively.
Pilgrims from Iran topped the list of Umrah pilgrims reached the holy city in the current Umrah season that started on January 19 (Safar 15). At least 663558 Iranians performed Umrah this year and this makes up 21.17 per cent of the total Umrah pilgrims who came to the Kingdom to perform the lesser pilgrimage. Egyptians, 374480 in number, came second, while Turks (342375) and Pakistanis (331662) came next to them. They were followed by pilgrims from Indonesia (229110), Jordan (197057), Iraq (198975), India (168013), Syria (142828) and Malaysia (101362). Another 384837 pilgrims representing various nationalities also reached the Kingdom during the season.
It is expected that nearly 30 percent of the total Umrah pilgrims in the current season would arrive within one month from mid Sha’ban (July 16) until the second half of Ramadan, according to sources at Umrah service sector.
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It is noteworthy that the Ministry of Haj disclosed three weeks ago that there was an increase of 34 per cent in the number of Umrah pilgrims this year comparing with the same period last year. It said Saudi missions abroad have reported issuing 3.6 million Umrah visas during the period. Officials of Umrah service companies have been skeptical about the success of current season as many would-be pilgrims were not able to travel due to political turmoil in some Arab countries. They are, however, optimistic now that the number may cross the figure of four million pilgrims last year.
Meanwhile, the hospitality sector in Makkah and Madinah geared up to cope with the huge flow of pilgrims with the advent of the holy fasting month. Almost all the hotels in Makkah and Madinah, especially those in the Central Haram Area, are struggling to reserve rooms and accommodate the increased number of pilgrims. Speaking to Gulf News, the hotel industry sources said that the hotel occupancy rate in Madinah exceeded 80 per cent. The rush was mainly attributed to the coincidence of this year’s summer vacation in the Kingdom and many other GCC and Arab states with the advent of Ramadan. Tala’t Ilyas, executive director of Ilyas Company for Haj and Umrah Services, said the hotel accommodation charges would not exceed more than 20 percent this year. “A three-bed room would cost 160-200 riyals at our hotels with three or four star facilities in the Central Haram Area,” he said.
Ilyas Company has the capacity to receive about 250000 -300000 Umrah pilgrims in their 13 hotels situated in the Central Haram Area in Madinah.
Source: Gulf News
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