***THIS UMRAH THREAD IS CONSTANTLY BEING UPDATED – SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM TO SEE DEVELOPMENTS***
23.09.2020 – We advise all British Muslims to hold off from making any Umrah bookings until we have clear directives from the Saudi Authorities on the entry requirements into KSA for Umrah.
Source: Ministry of Hajj & Umrah
First stage of resumed services allow pilgrims three hours to perform Umrah
September 25, 2020
MAKKAH: Each pilgrim will be given three hours to perform Umrah, starting and ending in the triage areas around Makkah, during the first stage of the resumption of Umrah services, according to Arab News sources.
The first stage is scheduled to start on Oct. 4 and will be operated through the I’tamarna app.
The plan is to have triage areas around the holy city, allowing 6,000 pilgrims to perform Umrah each day at six different times, with each group of 1,000 pilgrims being given three hours.
Ahmed Bajaiffer, an investor in Umrah companies, said that the Saudi government had decided to resume Umrah services after their suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic “as it believes that Muslims should not stop performing pilgrimage, while respecting the precautionary measures.”
The first stage will allow Umrah for Saudis and expats residing in the Kingdom, before expanding to a bigger capacity in the next stages to allow pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia.
Source: Arab News
Umrah app will increase competition, enrich pilgrim experience, says Saudi official
September 24, 2020
MAKKAH: The Kingdom’s new Umrah app will create a competitive business environment that will improve pilgrim services and enrich the pilgrim experience, according to a senior ministry official.
I’tamarna is aimed at enforcing health standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic and making it easier for people to book their journeys. It also offers booking services that pilgrims can use ahead of their arrival in Makkah for accommodation, transport and recreation.
Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, chief planning and strategy officer at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, said that the app’s launch should push companies to provide people with a broader and better range of services.
“When we provide high quality services at competitive prices, the pilgrim will find himself drawn to these companies, especially when companies work hard to provide the best services at a competitive price to local pilgrims,” Al-Maddah told Arab News.
He added that external agents who used to control everything related to Umrah will no longer do so as they were just agents and did not own facilities. Their job was to represent and market Umrah companies abroad.
According to Al-Maddah, new measures had fixed this problem and organized the relation between Umrah companies and their external agents to be strictly marketing-based.
“The newly adopted measures will free Umrah companies and motivate them, especially at a time when bookings are being performed through several electronic platforms. This allows foreign pilgrims to directly deal with Umrah companies through the phone, the app and additional means other than the external agents. This will liberate the Umrah companies and improve their performance, allowing them to market their services inside and outside the Kingdom.”
Saudi Arabia said earlier this week that it would start allowing pilgrims to perform Umrah in phased return, while taking the necessary precautions. The decision was made after assessing the developments of the pandemic and in response to the desire of Muslims around the world to perform the ritual.
Source: Arab News
Haram presidency gears up to receive pilgrims
Saudi Gazette report
MAKKAH — The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has swung into action to implement a series of precautionary measures and initiatives launched by Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, the head of the presidency, to receive pilgrims and worshipers at the Grand Mosque from Oct. 4.
The presidency’s plan to receive pilgrims and visitors focuses on providing the best and high-quality services and facilities in a way ensuring their safety from coronavirus.
These initiatives include the installation of highly advanced versions of thermal cameras equipped with high-resolution monitoring systems to issue alerts when high temperature is recorded for any of the pilgrims and visitors entering the Grand Mosque, which will allow the authorities to deal instantly with those suspected of being infected with the virus.
Al-Sudais also launched an initiative to handle masks, as well as the system to apply precautionary measures during the distribution of Zamzam water, in addition to sterilization and disinfection work at the Grand Mosque.
The presidency chief said that these measures are taken to ensure a healthy and safe atmosphere for the pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The presidency has begun quite early to prepare the necessary plans to receive pilgrims in direct coordination and cooperation with the health authorities in the Kingdom for the implementation of all precautionary measures inside the Two Holy Mosques,” he added.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced on Wednesday that the entry of Umrah pilgrims, worshipers, and visitors to the Two Holy Mosques will be regulated through the application “I’tamarna,” which will be available on smart phones effective from Sept. 27.
The app will enable the pilgrims and visitors to plan their pilgrimage and visit in advance, as well as to make a reservation of optional services to perform their rituals in ease and comfort, in addition to ensuring the compliance of the health and precautionary measures and preventive protocols, approved by the Ministry of Health and other competent authorities, to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The ministry said that the application will be available for users of iOS and Android operating systems seven days before the start of the first phase. The registration of the data entered by the pilgrims and visitors to the Two Holy Mosques will be directly related to the application “Tawakkalna,” the official app launched by the Ministry of Health to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Ministry of Interior announced on Tuesday the gradual resumption of Umrah and visits to the Two Holy Mosques with a limited number of pilgrims. In the first phase, citizens and expatriates from within the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah at a capacity of 30 percent from Oct. 4. Foreign pilgrims will be allowed to resume their pilgrimage to the Kingdom to perform Umrah and visit the Two Holy Mosques effective from Nov. 1.
In March this year, the ministry announced the temporary suspension of the Umrah pilgrimage and visit to the Holy Mosques for both foreign and domestic pilgrims and worshipers as part of the precautionary measures that have been taken following the outbreak of the pandemic.
Umrah App to be available on smartphones from Sept. 27
September 23, 2020
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced on Wednesday that the entry of Umrah pilgrims, worshipers and visitors to the Two Holy Mosques will be regulated through the application “I’tamarna,” which will be available on smartphones effective from Sept. 27 (Safar 10).
The ministry has developed the app in cooperation with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) to regulate the times of rituals of those wishing to visit Makkah and Madinah to perform Umrah and pray at the Two Holy Mosques.
The app will enable the pilgrims and visitors to plan their pilgrimage and visit in advance, as well as to make reservation of optional services to perform their rituals in ease and comfort, in addition to ensuring the compliance of the health and precautionary measures and preventive protocols, approved by the Ministry of Health and other competent authorities, to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The Ministry of Interior announced on Tuesday the gradual resumption of Umrah and visits to the Two Holy Mosques with a limited number of pilgrims, starting from Oct. 4.
In the first phase, citizens and expatriates from within the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah at a capacity of 30 percent from Oct. 4 that translates to 6,000 pilgrims per day and that is in compliance with the health precautionary measures of the Grand Mosque.
The Ministry of Hajj said that the application would be available for users of iOS and Android operating systems seven days before the start of the first phase.
The registration of the data entered by the pilgrims and visitors to the Two Holy Mosques will be directly related to the application “Tawakkalna,” the official app launched by the Ministry of Health to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The ministry said in a statement, “This step would consist of a number of procedures, including providing a guarantee that the pilgrim or visitor is free from coronavirus.
“The application enables pilgrims and visitors to select the appropriate time for performance of the rituals in accordance with the available dates, as well as to choose the accompanying services that they wish to be made available for them such as choosing the means of transportation, gathering points and service centers.”
The ministry emphasized the importance of the pilgrims and visitors to strictly adhere to the precautionary measures that ensure their safety and health, such as wearing mask, maintaining safe physical distance, and comply with the times and routes designated for each pilgrim and visitor.
The ministry affirmed the Kingdom’s keenness to enable the guests of God to perform their rituals in safe and healthy manner in a way protecting them from the threats of pandemic and achieving the objectives of the Islamic Shariah in safeguarding the human soul at any cost.
In March this year, the Ministry of Interior announced temporary suspension of the Umrah pilgrimage and visit to the Holy Mosques for both foreign and domestic pilgrims and worshipers as part of the precautionary measures that have taken following the outbreak of the pandemic.
According to the new decision of the Ministry of Interior to lift suspension of Umrah service in a phased manner, foreign pilgrims will be allowed to resume their pilgrimage to the Kingdom to perform Umrah and visit the Two Holy Mosques in the third phase, which will begin on Nov. 1.
Source: Saudi Gazette
Saudi Arabia allows gradual resumption of Umrah from Oct. 4
September 22, 2020
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — Saudi Arabia has announced the gradual resumption of Umrah and visits to the Two Holy Mosques with a limited number of pilgrims, starting from Oct. 4, 2020, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday citing a source at the Ministry of Interior.
The ministry source said that based on the reports of the competent authorities regarding coronavirus developments and in response to the aspirations of many Muslims at home and abroad to perform Umrah, and based on the leadership’s keenness on the health and safety of the visitors the Two Holy Mosques, a royal approval has been given to allow the performance of Umrah and visits to the Two Holy Mosques gradually while taking the necessary health preventative measures.
In the first phase, citizens and expatriates from within the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah at a capacity of 30 percent from Oct. 4 that translates to 6,000 pilgrims per day following the health precautionary measures of the Grand Mosque.
In the second phase, citizens and expatriates inside the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah, visit the Rawdah in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, and pray in Two Holy Mosques, starting from Oct. 18, with a 75 percent capacity limit that is equivalent of nearly 15,000 pilgrims per day and 40,000 worshippers per day following the health precautionary measures for the Grand Mosque, as well as 75 percent of the capacity in line with the health precautionary measures for the Rawdah in the Prophet’s Mosque.
In the third phase, pilgrims from abroad would be allowed to perform Umrah as of Nov. 1 with a full capacity of 20,000 pilgrims and 60,000 worshipers per day and it will continue until the official end of the coronavirus pandemic or the official announcement that the danger is over. The arrival of Umrah performers and visitors from outside the Kingdom shall be gradual from the countries that are free from health risks related to the coronavirus pandemic, the source added.
The fourth phase will allow the performance of Umrah, visit and prayers by citizens and expatriates from inside and outside the Kingdom, at 100 percent of the normal capacity of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, when the competent authority decides that the risks of the pandemic has disappeared.
Meanwhile, the entry of pilgrims, worshipers and visitors shall be regulated through the application (Etamarna), which will be launched by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, with the aim of implementing the health standards and controls approved by the Ministry of Health and the competent authorities.
The source called upon pilgrims, worshipers and visitors to adhere to preventive measures and apply the health instructions and requirements, including wearing face masks, keeping a safe distance, and avoiding a physical contact.
The source affirmed the Kingdom’s keenness to enable the pilgrims from inside and outside the Kingdom to perform the rituals in a safe and healthy manner fulfilling the preventative requirements and spatial distancing in order to ensure human safety and protection from the threats of this pandemic, and achieve the objectives of the Islamic law in preserving human lives.
The source explained that the stages announced in this statement will be subjected to continuous evaluation, according to the developments of the pandemic.
Source: Saudi Gazette
Umrah services to resume gradually: Minister Benten
September 21, 2020
RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Muhammad Saleh Benten said that the temporary suspension of Umrah pilgrimage and visits to the Two Holy Mosques will be lifted in a phased manner.
“The gradual resumption of Umrah and the visits will rely on technical solutions that enable Umrah service providing companies and establishments to further improve their services as well as to market their services at the local and global levels,” he said while addressing the second virtual forum to enrich the experience of Umrah pilgrims.
Benten said there will be more than 30 local and international companies that can handle the provision of services for the pilgrims through an electronic pathway that enables these service providers to do the necessary follow-up while serving the pilgrims.
He said that the merger of Umrah companies and the establishment will make them strong entities that are capable of providing high-quality services for some 16 million domestic and foreign Umrah pilgrims annually. A new smart card will be issued for these companies during their transitional period and this card will be used first to serve visitors to the Prophet’s Mosque from within the Kingdom and abroad. “We aspire to serve 30 million pilgrims annually by the year 2030,” he added.
For his part, Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdul Fattah Mashat said that mergers and acquisitions in the Umrah sector will significantly reduce operational costs and contribute to increasing operational efficiency and diversification of services because of the increase in assets and financial capabilities.
“The Hajj and Umrah system is not limited to the basic services provided to the pilgrims, as there is a full gamut of services that can be provided by the private sector, such as support and logistical services, which will have a major role in achieving the goals of the Vision 2030,” he added.
Source: Saudi Gazette
Conditions set for merger of Umrah companies
September 20, 2020
RIYADH — The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has set six requirements as the criteria for the merger of Umrah service providing companies and establishments. This follows the ministry’s recent initiative to mitigate the economic and financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the Umrah sector.
The initiative included a package of recommendations, the foremost of which is the move to stimulate horizontal mergers and acquisitions of Umrah companies and establishments as well as making investment in these entities.
According to the new conditions, companies involved in the merger must have a valid license for Umrah services and there should not be any complaints against their intending merger before the committee examining the complaints of pilgrims during the merger procedures.
These companies have nort been levied any penalties such as temporary suspension of the license or its cancelation during the merger procedures.
The companies shall submit a bank guarantee of its full amount before starting the merger procedures. Another condition is related to those merging companies that are not licensed for the time being to provide the services to pilgrims. Such companies shall fulfill all the requirements set forth in the regulations for organizing services to pilgrims and its executive regulations.
Such companies shall attach a letter from the Umrah company or establishment with which it is wishing to merge, duly attested by the chamber of commerce including the document for canceling the license for the services of pilgrims granted to it earlier.
Source: Saudi Gazette
Umrah service to resume with limited domestic pilgrims
September 14, 2020
JEDDAH — The resumption of Umrah service will begin in the near future with only a limited number of domestic pilgrims being allowed to perform the ritual in the initial phase, Okaz/Saudi Gazette has learnt from informed sources.
The Ministry of Interior announced on Sunday partial lifting of travel restrictions from Sept. 15 and the total lifting of the restrictions effective from Jan. 1, 2021. The ministry stated that a plan to lift the suspension of Umrah service will be announced gradually in light of the developments related to the pandemic.
According to the sources, domestic pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage provided they fulfill certain terms and conditions. It will be mandatory for the pilgrims to carry with them a medical certificate to show that they are tested negative for the coronavirus.
The opening of the door for Umrah will be made in line with the coronavirus precautionary measures and preventive protocols. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will announce soon the terms and conditions in this regard, the source pointed out.
The source confirmed that there will be a mobile application that specifies the date and time of performance of the pilgrimage by each pilgrim and that a permit to perform Umrah will be issued by the concerned authorities to those fulfilling the terms and conditions.
Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj Affairs Dr. Hussein Al-Sharif confirmed to Okaz/Saudi Gazette earlier that the ministry will work to evaluate the experience of the exceptional success of the last Hajj. He said that the ministry will take advantage of this successful experience in implementing high-quality health and regulatory measures for the coming Umrah season.
Saudi Arabia to lift all travel restrictions on citizens from Jan. 1
September 13, 2020
We are pleased to learn of the decision by the Saudi Authorities to lift all travel restrictions on citizens from Jan 1st 2021 as reported in the Saudi Gazette on Sunday 13th September 2020.
In the article it mentioned that a source from the Ministry of Interior stated that “a plan to lift the suspension of Umrah services will be announced gradually, based on what will be decided independently later in this regard, in light of the developments related to the pandemic”.
Based on this statement, we would like to reiterate our earlier message that Umrah remains suspended and urge British pilgrims NOT to book Umrah packages/services until an official statement and instructions are issued by the Ministry of Hajj & Umrah. In the meantime, please continue to follow the travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.