The Saudi Vice Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Abdulfattah Suliman Mashat, says the 2018-2019 Umrah season to open next week, about a month earlier this year
Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom’s roadmap for the future, stipulates improving the pilgrimage experience and increasing the number of pilgrims in coming years
RIYADH, Sept 6, 2018 – The 2018-2019 Umrah season, which is due to begin next week, is likely to see an increase in the number of Muslims performing Umrah in the Holy City of Makkah.
Vice Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Abdulfattah Suliman Mashat, said the new Umrah season will begin next Tuesday, which is the 1st of the Islamic month of Muharram, and marks the start of the new Hijri year, 1440. Umrah — the minor pilgrimage which is undertaken by Muslims outside of the official Hajj pilgrimage — traditionally began during the following Islamic month, Safar. The 2017-2018 Umrah season started in late October 2017 and ended in early July, 2018 and drew more than seven million pilgrims, according to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
During the just-ended 2018 Hajj pilgrimage from August 19-24, more than 2.37 million pilgrims travelled to Makkah to perform the pilgrimage, including more than 1.75 million from outside the Kingdom.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the issuance of visas to Umrah pilgrims at the Kingdom’s diplomatic and consular missions around the world, Vice Minister Mashat said.
During the just-ended Hajj season, to facilitate pilgrims’ Hajj journey, Saudi Arabia had launched the ‘Makkah Route’ Initiative in Indonesia and Malaysia and announced plans to provide the service to pilgrims from any country wishing to benefit from it. The Makkah Route service allows pilgrims to undergo immigration pre-clearance and other services related to entering the Kingdom while still at their point of embarkation, greatly facilitating their journey to perform the Islamic pilgrimage.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s new measures on an earlier start of Umrah are in line with the Saudi Vision 2030. The Vision, which is spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aims to improve the pilgrimage experience and specifically states as one of its goals: “To increase our capacity to welcome Umrah visitors from 8 million to 30 million every year.” This will be done through a strategic and comprehensive plan to improve the sector.
Vice Minister Mashat said 15 million pilgrims are expected to perform Umrah annually by 2022. The number will rise to about 30 million by the year 2030, as per Vision 2030. He said the Kingdom plans to increase number of Hajj pilgrims from outside the Kingdom to 5 million by 2030.
The Saudi government has been making improvements and enhancing the management and systems for both Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages in order to provide the best of services to all pilgrims. The big number of pilgrims every year necessitates a gargantuan effort on the Saudi’s Government front, especially when it comes to caring for the health and well-being of the pilgrims.
Hatem Al Qadi, a media official at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, said some 500 Hajj and Umrah visas have been issued so far.
“The new measures will allow those wanting to perform Umrah at this particular time of year and they will also allow the companies that cater to the pilgrims to work also,” Al Qadi said.
Meanwhile, according to General Directorate of Passports statistics on the number of pilgrims who left the Kingdom until the end of Monday has reached a total of 800,385 pilgrims, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. The statistics indicated that 710,583 pilgrims left the Kingdom by air, while the number of pilgrims leaving by land totaled 76,732 pilgrims, and 13,070 pilgrims left via sea ports.
The total number of Hajj pilgrims who arrived in the Holy City of Madinah post-Hajj reached 415,245 pilgrims by the end of Tuesday, according to the daily statistics announced by the Hajj Committee in Madinah.