Payment in Saudi riyal rankles Arab pilgrims

Payment in Saudi riyal rankles Arab pilgrims
Updated 27 July 2013

Payment in Saudi riyal rankles Arab pilgrims

Payment in Saudi riyal rankles Arab pilgrims

Non-Saudi Umrah companies are charging pilgrims in Saudi riyals to avoid losses from decline in the value of other currencies.
According to Umrah performers, most travel agencies offer Umrah trips with a high cost in Saudi riyal to avoid sharp decline in currencies of Arab spring countries.
Umrah trips are usually organized in the Middle East through travel agencies where the payment should be in the currency of the country that present the offer. For example, Umrah performers from Egypt must pay the cost of Umrah in Egyptian pounds. This year, many agencies decided to get paid in Saudi riyals.
Souad Jamalawi, an Egyptian Umrah pilgrim, told Arab News that the cost of Umrah trip with a 4-star hotel booking was estimated at 3,000 Egyptian pounds in 2010. This year she paid about 7,000 Egyptians pounds for the trip.
“We paid in Saudi riyals when the company refused to take the payment in Egyptian pounds,” Jamalawi said. “The cost in Saudi riyals comes to SR4,000, which is considered reasonable here in the Kingdom. But when we change it into the Egyptian pound, it works out very expensive.”
Hamed Al-Shra’abi, a Yemeni Umrah performer, said that when he usually pays for an Umrah trip, he pays in Yemeni riyals. But this year the travel agency asked him to pay in Saudi riyals.
“In the past, I was paying a total of SR4,000 that equals to 228,761 Yemeni riyals, but this year I paid SR6,000 which equals to 343,142 Yemeni riyals,” Al-Shra’abi said.
He added: “We know why companies are looking to get paid in Saudi riyals, as we know how the recent revolutions had affected the currency market in Arab Spring countries.”
Fatima bint Saeid, a Tunisian who visits the Kingdom every three years to perform Umrah, said that her travel agency asked her to pay in US dollars or Saudi riyals. She said that in the past she was paying in Tunisian dinar.
“The total cost of Umrah trip in Tunisia is usually estimated at 1,200 Tunisian dinars,” Saeid said. “This year, the travel agency asked me to pay SR5,500, which equals to 2,400 Tunisian dinars. I know how the economic situation is hard in Tunisia and the currency market is very unstable, but it is unfair to ask us to pay in other currencies.”
She added: “We found it difficult to exchange the money especially when the Tunisian dinar is going down because of the unstable political situation.”