JEDDAH: More than 1.8 million foreign pilgrims were expected to perform Haj this year, Haj Minister Bandar Hajar announced recently.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the headquarters of the Tawafa Organization for South Asian Pilgrims, Hajar said there was no plan to reduce the number of Umrah pilgrims for the mataf (circumambulation area around the Kaaba) expansion project.
The minister said this year’s was the most successful Umrah season. An estimated 5.5 million foreign pilgrims came to the Kingdom. “We issued 5.8 million Umrah visas this year. Most of the 5.5 million pilgrims came for Umrah have already left the Kingdom. Only 10,000 pilgrims are now remaining in the country,” he said.
“This is a big success compared to the Umrah season of 2005, when 2.5 million foreign pilgrims came and about half of them remained in the country, overstaying their Umrah visas,” he explained.
Hajar said despite the convening of an emergency Islamic summit in Makkah, the Umrah pilgrims who came from different parts of the world were able to leave the Kingdom without any difficulty. He commended the efforts of all government departments for the success of the Umrah season.
Hajar said he is ready to meet the Shoura Council if he gets an invitation from the consultative body. “I have not yet received any invitation and I am ready to accept the invitation at any time,” he said.
Hajar met with chairman and members of the organization’s board of directors and discussed its preparations for the Haj season. He urged the organization to make use of the huge facilities being provided by the government in the service of pilgrims.
The ministry has set out a plan for sending pilgrims of various Tawafa organizations to the Jamrat and the Haram Mosque in coordination with the Public Security and Civil Defense Department.
Adnan Katib, president of the Tawafa Organization of South Asian Pilgrims, said they had discussed with Hajar the organization’s operation plan for the Haj season.
“We have discussed various aspects to improve services for pilgrims including housing, transport and general planning,” Katib said, adding that the organization would mobilize all its resources to extend the best possible services to the guests of God.