Saudi pilgrims seek better services, expats low prices

Updated 27 September 2014

Saudi pilgrims seek better services, expats low prices

It appears that Saudi and expatriate Haj pilgrims have slightly different needs, with citizens mostly seeking to know about services offered, while the latter are concerned about prices.
Khaled Al-Mughrabi, a worker at a local Haj company, said there was a large turnout this year for low-cost Haj packages from Arab and Asian expatriates, including Pakistanis and Indians.
Two low-cost Haj packages were offered this year, one starting from SR2,500 and the other from SR7,000.
He said cheaper packages were oversubscribed and pilgrims had to be turned away. There were still a few spots left for the more expensive package, Al-Mughrabi said.
Hassan Asiri, who makes reservations for a local Haj firm, told Arab News that expatriates first ask about price and the possibility of getting a discounted rate.
In contrast, Saudi nationals are more concerned about services, including information on where camps are located and the proximity to the jamaraat, where the ritual stoning of the devil takes place.
“They also ask about transportation and the quality of vehicles, including whether they have air conditioning that suits the desert climate,” Asiri said.
Abdul Hamid Othman, a Haj company supervisor, said that many of those who registered for the low-cost package had changed their minds because of the lack of services.
“This is a result of people not having sufficient information about these packages in the first place,” he said.
Majid Al-Idris, a Moroccan barber, said that his Haj company charged him a lot more money for the same package his friend had bought.
He said the company representatives had told him that prices had gone up because there were only a few places left, and that more services were offered.
He warned that many companies were overcharging pilgrims.
They often offer cooked meals, but then only produce dry, packaged food, he said.
Abdul Aziz Al-Nabhani, an official at a Haj company, said that many pilgrims had insufficient information this year on the low-cost packages offered.
The Haj Ministry had expanded the low-cost program this year to absorb the pilgrims who were sleeping on the streets of Makkah.
The ministry had opened the program for 15,000 pilgrims through registered Haj companies in two phases.
The first phase included 8,000 pilgrims and the second 7,000.
Al-Nabhani said that many who came to book their places at offices nationwide had not known that they were able to do so on the ministry’s website.
He called on the government to provide more publicity to the program next year.


Saudi Arabia implements end to travel restrictions for Saudi women

Updated 20 August 2019

Saudi Arabia implements end to travel restrictions for Saudi women

  • Any person above the age of 21 does not need permission to travel
  • The rules were announced in a royal decree of sweeping reforms last month

RIYADH: New laws that mean Saudi women no longer require permission from a male guardian to travel or obtain a passport came into effect Tuesday.
The rules were announced in a royal decree of sweeping reforms last month. It means adult women can travel feely and exercise more control over family matters.
“The passports and civil status departments and their branches in all regions of the Kingdom have started to implement the amendments stipulated in the royal decree,” Saudi Press Agency reported.
The decree said every Saudi citizen had the right to obtain a passport, and limits the need for a guardian’s approval to minors only. 
The Kingdom has steadily removed some restrictions in recent years, including ending a ban on women driving last year.
The regulatory changes stipulated that a Saudi passport should be issued to any citizen who applies for it and that any person above the age of 21 does not need permission to travel.
They also granted women for the first time the right to register child birth, marriage or divorce and to be issued official family documents and be eligible as a guardian to children who are minors.