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Saudi Arabia

6.2m Umrah visas issued

Muslims pray and gather around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque during the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in this June 8, 2016 photo. (REUTERS)
RIGHTEOUSNESS: Ramadan’s first Friday saw the faithful coming to the Grand Mosque in their thousands for Umrah and tawaf. (AN photo by Ahmed Hashad)

JEDDAH: The Kingdom has issued this season over 6.28 million visas for Umrah pilgrims, with an estimated 900,000 expected in Makkah this Ramadan, according to a media report on Friday.
The figures till June 9 show that over 5.47 million pilgrims have already entered the country. Most visas were issued to Egypt at 1.296 million, Pakistan at 968,550, Turkey at 470,944, and Jordan fourth at 426,326, most of which were issued to Iraqi citizens.
Khalid Al-Shamsan, executive director of an Umrah company, said that there has been a decline in Umrah visas issued to some countries because of poor economic conditions in the region and globally. The Ministry of Haj and Umrah only issues new visas once pilgrims who are in the country leave, he said.
Waleed Abu Sabaa’, an investor in the Umrah sector, said this year has seen more Umrah pilgrims than last year, but there has been a general decline in visa applications over the previous years. Most pilgrims applied during Shabaan and confirmed their bookings. Applications close on Ramadan 15, he said.
Meanwhile, authorities are implementing a major health and safety plan. Hmour Al-Ayadah, director for safety at the Grand Mosque, said there are measures in place to help elderly and sick people, with emergency exits ready for quick evacuation. There are also areas to store property and equipment.

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