Saudi Arabia Can Receive Six Million Pilgrims Next Hajj Seasons


Jeddah- Specialists in Hajj affairs assured that Saudi Arabia has all requirements to receive more than six million pilgrims during the coming seasons, based on its solid infrastructure, size of projects executed in the holy sites, its national cadre and economic power.

The kingdom succeeded during the current Umrah season in hosting more than 6,750 million pilgrims, an increase of more than 400,000 pilgrims, coming from all over the world based on statistics of Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

The ministry’s statistical report also revealed that the number of Pakistani pilgrims was the highest (1.4 million), then Indonesians (875,958) while Iraqis’ number was the highest among Arab states (264, 878).

Specialists stated that the constant dealing with more than nine million Hajj and Umrah pilgrims throughout the year has enabled Saudi Arabia to put plans to increase the number of pilgrims as the new projects reach an end.

Chairman of the Kingdom’s National Committee for Hajj and Umrah Marwan Shaaban told Asharq Al-Awsat that King Salman’s government pays huge attention to serving pilgrims in a way that suits the religious value of the Two Holy Mosques.

Shaaban added that the kingdom carries out new projects and services every year worth millions of dollars to facilitate performance of rituals and assimilate the expected increase in number of pilgrims.

In a related matter, economists see that the annual increase in pilgrims’ number – in tandem with Saudi Vision 2030 – will directly reflect on sectors of hotels and transportation during the coming period.

“All indicators prove that there is a remarkable investment growth in hotels for several factors including the Saudi strategy to expand investment to all segments,” said economist Dr. Louay Tayar.

Hajj Pilgrims Receive a Warm Saudi Welcome

Saudi children dressed up in a uniform and welcoming incoming pilgrims with dates and zamzam water as they arrive to Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport, Saudi Arabia,

Jeddah- Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, receives pilgrims who come to perform Hajj rites each year with welcoming programs that start at the point of arrival until departure.

After reaching Makkah, Hajj pilgrims are received with chants, Zamzam water dates and a smile. Upon leaving, they leave with a warm farewell, souvenirs and a beautiful experience etched to their memories of the kingdom and its people.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah single-handedly runs greeting programs and reception of pilgrims, hoping to bring visitors some joy and alleviate the burden of travel and hardship.

Most receptions highlight the heart-warming hospitality of the Kingdom afforded to pilgrims from all over the world.

Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten ensured that preparations of government bodies working for the season of Hajj of this year, at King Abdulaziz International Airport are on point for this remarkable occasion.

Preparations included a Hajj Hall dedicated to pilgrims, at the airport, services’ offices and transportation system.

More so, the ministry distributed uniforms worn by reception teams assigned to of each of the arrival halls to receive the pilgrims with the prayer, welcoming chants, Zamzam water, and dates.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Medina carries out the programs under the slogan “We love you, O guest of God”, to receive the pilgrims as they leave the halls of Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Airport, and the completion of the procedures of passports and customs.

Up until this day, the total number of pilgrims coming to Medina, reached 222,444 pilgrims, while the number of pilgrims who arrived last Friday was 28,754 pilgrims, according to a statistics report prepared by the National Foundation for the presentation.

The statistics showed that 26,931 pilgrims arrived through Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Medina, and 1,823 pilgrims through other stations.

Saudi Arabia Welcomes Qatari Pilgrims Traveling by Air only


Jeddah- Saudi Arabia has announced that Qatari pilgrims will come to perform Hajj rituals by air only via airlines such as Qatar Airways, ensuring that Qataris are welcome – the total number of visas for Umrah pilgrims this year reached a record 6.7 million, the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said.

Despite the ongoing Gulf crisis, the Kingdom welcomes all those from Qatar who wish to perform Hajj and Umrah, the ministry added.

Qataris and expatriates with Qatari residency visas who have Hajj permits from the Saudi ministry and from relevant bodies in Qatar can enter the Kingdom via air carriers chosen by Doha and approved by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA).

They should enter only through King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz Airport in Madinah during the current Hajj season, the ministry cotninued.

The kingdom will provide facilities and services for all coming pilgrims from Qatar and the rest of the world to allow them to perform the rituals smoothly.

This policy has been adopted by the kingdom since its unity by the founder King Abdulaziz and until today in the time of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the crown prince.

Mohammad Maajini, deputy chairman of the Mutawif Association for Pilgrims of Arab countries, told Asharq Al-Awsat that services provided for pilgrims coming from Arab countries go in tandem with guidelines of King Salman’s government.

He added that a meeting was held with the minister of of Hajj and Umrah few days ago, where the latter expressed keenness to provide best services in this season.

Umrah Pilgrims Increase Rate of Makkah Hotel Occupancy Last Days of Ramadan

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars symbolizing Satan, during the annual Haj pilgrimage on Eid al-Adha in Mina, near the holy city of Makkah, October 5, 2014.

Makkah- Pilgrims coming to Makkah for the last ten days of Ramadan have revived hotels in the central area of the Holy site and the adjacent areas, where the occupancy of hotel rooms increased more than 90 percent, according to the expectations of dealers in this sector.

The hotels in Makkah have witnessed this Umrah season events that caused fluctuations in their rates of occupancy as a result of the delayed arrival of Umrah performers from some countries, leading to a low purchase power in hotels in Makkah and Medinah.

Chairman of the Kingdom’s National Committee for Hajj and Umrah Marwan Shaaban said that this year is exceptional in regards to the occupancy of hotels due to the harsh circumstances many Arab and Islamic countries are facing.

“For example, Egyptian Umrah pilgrims are usually considered one of the largest segments of the Umrah performers compared to other Islamic countries. The delay of their arrival this year affected the occupancy process of hotels in Makkah and Medinah, in addition to their economic conditions and the Egpyt Pound’s fall against the Saudi Riyal led to their low demand on the hotels they used to check in before as they now opt for less expensive hotels that far from the central area.”

As for the Turkish Umrah performers, Shaaban said, “their currency also fell, thus their arrival to Makkah this yeas is much less compared to previous years. Likewise, the currency in Indonesia has fallen by 60 percent, so all these factors led to the fluctuation of hotel work in the Umrah season this year.”

As for the solutions taken by the hotels to save their season, the head of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah said: “There were some solutions taken by some hotels that succeeded in attracting Umrah and foreign touristic companies. They reduced their prices and provided Umrah pilgrims with extra free nights. Some hotels put free touristic programs for Umrah performers, and these features were welcomed by customers of these hotels.”

Custodian of Two Holy Mosques Receives Phone Call from British PM


Mecca – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received a telephone call on Thursday from British Prime Minister Theresa May and he offered condolences for victims of the fire that burst in one of the buildings in the capital, wishing quick recovery for the wounded.

During the phone call, they discussed bilateral ties and possible ways to cement them in various fields in addition to the exerted efforts in fighting terrorism.

King Salman also welcomed on Thursday scholars, sheikhs and imams of the Grand Mosque who came to greet him. He also received Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed bin Saleh Bintan and undersecretaries of the ministry and other Hajj and Umrah officials.

The meeting was attended by a number of princes then everyone had Iftar with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Crown Prince Orders Delivery of Ramadan Food Baskets to Somalis

Riyadh- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, has directed the General Supervisor of Saudi Relief Campaigns, Saudi National Campaign to Support Somali People, to distribute 40,000 Ramadan food baskets to the people in need in Somalia.

The crown prince also adopted the public plan to implement civil defense works in case of emergencies in the capital during the month of Ramadan. He ordered all public institutions to execute this plan in cases of emergency to guarantee the safety of guests.

Director General of Civil Defense Lieutenant General Suliman al-Amr expressed gratitude and appreciation to the crown prince for his support and follow-up of the plan’s implementation as well as for backing its goals in ensuring safety of Umrah performers.

Amr stated that there is full coordination with public institutions taking part in the execution of civil defense works plan to make use of potentials of all parties in implementing evacuation, rescuing, sheltering and emergency services.

Regional Director of the Saudi National Campaign for Relief of Somali People Sa’ad al-Swayed said that the office of the national campaign was directed to quickly complete the project and carry out required preparations before Ramadan to fulfill the crown prince’s orders.

Swayed ensured the government’s keenness to stand by the Somalis in times of distress and to work on providing them with relief aid, especially at the current circumstances.

The Saudi National Campaign for Relief of Somali People was launched six years ago and has so far provided aid to the Somali people in medical, education, relief and infrastructure fields. The aid reached a total worth SAR590,411,134 million (USD157,442,969 million).

Crown Prince Inaugurates 17th Scientific Forum for Hajj, Umrah

Crown Prince Inaugurates 17th Scientific Forum for Hajj, Umrah

Madinah – On behalf of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, opened the 17th Scientific Forum for the Researches of Hajj, Umrah, and visit at Taibah University in Madinah on Wednesday evening.

On arrival at the venue of the forum, the Crown Prince, who is also chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee and chairman of the Supreme Supervisory Committee of Hajj and Umrah Research Institute at Umm al-Qura University, was received by Madinah Emir Prince Faisal Bin Salman, Minister of Hajj and Umrah Muhammad Bantan, Taibah University President Abdul Aziz al-Sarani, Umm al-Qura University President Bakri Assas, Dean of the Institute of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for Hajj and Umrah Researches Sami bin Yassin Barhamain, and other senior officials.

Speaking on behalf of all participating specialists, researchers, members of the institute, and those interested in hajj and Umrah Affairs, Dean Barhamain valued the noble patronage and significant concern of the wise leadership to develop the Hajj and Umrah system, including the patronage and support provided for the 17th hajj and Umrah Forum.

He went on to add that the meeting aims to attract researchers and specialists working in the Saudi universities and research institutes and those interested in the studies related to Hajj and Umrah, as well as the employees in public and private sectors to discuss topics, research, and developments related to Hajj and Umrah services.

Barhamain stated that research, studies, and proposals are in line with the Kingdom Vision 2030 aiming at continuous development of the services provided for the pilgrims and visitors of the prophet’s mosques.

The scientific committee approved 112 scientific papers out of 269 papers received by the committee from the researchers and those interested in this regard to be discussed in eight scientific sessions including 46 scientific papers and 66 scientific posters. He indicated that all the scientific papers were verified according to the approved scientific standards.

He went on to added that the forum will discuss eight topics including, Hajj and Umrah jurisdiction, management, economy, urbanization, engineering, environment, health, awareness, media, technology applications, impacts of initiatives in the achievements and community participation in serving pilgrims, Umrah performers, and visitors of the prophet’s mosque.

Meanwhile, Assas lauded the noble patronage of King Salman and the honorable attendance of Crown Prince in the opening ceremony of the forum.

He emphasized the keenness, attention and lasting patronage attached by the rulers of this country to pilgrims, Umrah performers, and visitors, and their generous support provided for upgrading the quality of services offered for them to perform their rituals easily and conveniently.

“Umm Al-Qura University, represented by the Institute of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for Hajj and Umrah Researches, is honored with the work of developing Hajj and Umrah system through scientific research and specialized studies to address all obstacles and challenges and suggest practical solutions which contribute to implementing the projects and design plans intended to provide comfort for the pilgrims visiting these holy places annually,” he explained.

Sarani and Assas presented mementos to the Crown Prince on the occasion while the Crown Prince gave away shields to sponsors of the event.

The event was attended by Deputy Governor of al-Madinah al-Munawarah region Prince Saud bin Khalid al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Prince Nawaf bin Naif bin Abdulaziz, Prince Saud bin Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz, and a number of princes, civil and military officials, and researchers.

Later that evening, the Crown Prince visited the Prophet’s Mosque and prayed. He was accompanied by a number of princes and officials.

Earlier on Wednesday, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif arrived at Madinah to patronize, on behalf of King Salman, the 17th religious forum for Hajj, Umrah and visit.

He was received at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz international airport by Prince Faisal bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Prince Saud bin Khalid al-Faisal bin Abdulaziz, Prince Saud bin Khalid al-Faisal, Deputy Governor of al-Madinah al-Munawarah region Mohammed al-Omari Amin, and senior civil and military officials.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz was accompanied by a number of princes and officials.

He left Jeddah earlier today where he was seen off by Prince Mishaal bin Majed bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Jeddah Province and a number of officials.

Crown Prince Discusses Security Cooperation with President of Sierra Leone


Jeddah –Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, deputy prime minister and minister of interior, discussed with the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone Ernest Bai Koroma means of strengthening bilateral relations in various fields, especially with regard to enhancing security cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

The meeting came as a complementary to the talks held earlier by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz with Koroma.

The meeting also reviewed the latest developments in the Middle East region, efforts exerted towards them and Saudi Arabia and Sierra Leone’s position on them.

The meeting was attended by: advisor to the Minister of Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture Abdulrahman al-Fadley, Chief of General Intelligence Khalid al-Humaidan, Deputy Director General of General Investigation Lieutenant General Abdullah al-Qarni, Vice President and Managing Director of Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) Yousef bin Ibrahim al-Bassam, Special Secretary of the Crown Prince Ahmed bin Saleh al-Ajlan and Saudi Ambassador to Guinea and Sierra Leone Suleiman bin Saleh al-Furaih.

It was also attended by the delegation accompanying Koroma: Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Samura Kamara, Minister of Finance Momodu Kargbo, Minister of Mines and Natural Resources Minkailu Mansaray, Minister of Education Minkailu Bah, Minister of Information and Communication Mohamed Bangura and Sierra Leone Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Mohamed Sillah Kargbo.

In a separate development and under the patronage of King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed, who is also the chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, will open in Madinah the symposium on Hajj and Umrah on May 17.

The symposium will be organized at Taibah University by the Makkah-based Umm al-Qura University.

Rector of Umm Al-Qura University, Bakri Assas, who is also the dean of the center of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for Hajj and Umrah researches, lauded the excellent services provided to Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.

The center was able over four decades to conduct hundreds of studies, provide hundreds of projects and hold dozens of meetings and forums, which were entirely aimed at serving pilgrims and pilgrimage.

“The Kingdom has dedicated all of its human and technological potential in the service of pilgrims and visitors,” Assas said in order to attract researchers and experts from all universities and those interested in studying Hajj and Umrah.

He pointed out that the efforts of the Institute are part of the activity of Umm al-Qura University in serving Hajj, Umrah and “Ziyara”, which is inspired from the efforts of the Saudi government in serving the pilgrims.

Dean of the center Sami Barhameen said the scientific committee of the symposium has approved 112 out of 269 research papers to be discussed during eight sessions, averaging 46 papers every day.

“All the papers have been thoroughly checked, evaluated and endorsed by the scientific committee according to the international standards,” he said.

Bahrameen said the symposium will focus on a number of themes including Hajj jurisprudence, issues pertaining to Umrah, crowd management, economy, architecture, environment, health, media, technology and its applications and the impact of new projects and initiatives in the promotion of Hajj services.

He said the symposium will also discuss the participation of the public in serving pilgrims and visitors to Madinah.

Saudi Hajj, Umrah Ministry Opens Doors for Pilgrimage Planners’ Permit Applications

Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah ministry announced that it is fully ready and open to receive applications for organizing agencies and embassies to acquire permits on organizing voyages or offering services to future Umrah performers, reported Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The ministry also reported ongoing arrangements for digital services in keep with the country’s national transformation plan “Kingdom Vision 2030.” The service would provide facilitated access to the largest number of Muslims throughout the Islamic world to perform Umrah and visit the Prophet’s Mosque.

In a statement to Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the ministry called upon companies and institutions to visit the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah’s website in order to complete requirements of the permits.

This initiative came within framework of the ministry’s efforts to develop and provide services for the pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors.

Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Hajj which is exclusive to a single season each year.

Accommodation, Communication Services Appropriate Largest Part of Pilgrims’ Expenditure

Jeddah-The two economic sectors greatly affected by the annual Hajj pilgrimage season, directly proportional to the economic term of Hajj tourism, are sectors serving accommodation services and communication.

Revenue for each of those businesses is increased during Hajj season, which reciprocates systematically to their relative stock market standings.

According to economic experts, tourist expenditure this Hajj season will increase at a rate of 30 percent over last year’s figures reaching $6.9 billion. The increase is expected after ending the limit on Hajj pilgrimage visitors due to previous Makkah expansion projects, now that they are completed.

Hajj and Umrah (lesser pilgrimage) economic expert Saad al-Qurashi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the growing number of Hajj visitors this year will directly increase the income across all season related markets, especially those running the service sector.

Over three million Hajj visitors coming in, demand on accommodation is massively increased in addition to communications.

At least 40 percent of the pilgrimage expenditures are directed into either accommodation, such as hotels or fully furnished apartments, or communications, such as internet or network services that help the visitors maintain contact with their relatives during their stay abroad.

Annual revenue for the Hajj and Umrah market is expected to cross the $5.6 billion benchmark annually, in the case of over 12 million visitors arriving. The Hajj and Umrah market revenue eventually vitalizes the overall economic wheel of the kingdom.