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Haj 2013: Fewer pilgrims likely

The Haj Ministry is currently planning to considerably reduce the number of foreign and domestic Haj pilgrims this season, a reliable source has said.
“Directives have been issued to cut down the number of foreign and domestic pilgrims by 20 and 50 percent respectively,” a local daily reported quoting an informed source.
A technical committee is currently working on the modalities of implementing the directive, which seeks to reduce crowding to cope with the space limitation caused by the ongoing developmental projects at the Grand Mosque and the holy sites, the source said.
Meanwhile, Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar dismissed reports of reducing the number of visas being issued for Umrah as unfounded.
“The number of visas issued to Umrah service companies has not been reduced as rumored lately. However, the visas are being issued on a monthly basis. This system makes it obligatory for the companies to utilize the visas in the specified month the visas were issued,” Hajjar said.
If a visa is not used in the month it was issued it becomes invalid.
Umrah firms hold back the visas issued for Rajab and Shaaban to be used in Ramadan. The result is a huge number of pilgrims arriving in a single month and thereby disrupting the ministry’s plans, he said.

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