Saudi Arabia may allow women to perform Hajj without male guardian

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten approved updates to Umrah services. (SPA)
Updated 20 October 2019

Saudi Arabia may allow women to perform Hajj without male guardian

  • Ministry exploring visa options for solo female pilgrims
  • The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally

JEDDAH: Women could be allowed to perform the Hajj without a male guardian, Arab News has learned, with the government studying various visa options. Women are currently required to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimages with a mahram (male guardian), or be met by him on arrival in the Kingdom, although women over the age of 45 may travel without a mahram if they are in an organized tour group.
If women travel with a group and without a mahram they must submit a notarised letter of no objection from someone who could be considered their mahram, authorizing travel for Hajj or Umrah with that group.
But Arab News has learned that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is conducting studies to issue visit visas for both tourism and Umrah purposes, and that this process is expected to pave the way for allowing women to come without the need for a mahram.
It is one of a number of developments in the Hajj and Umrah sector, with Arab News also learning that the ministry was urged to intervene in the sector to save businesses.
Umrah firms have raised their concerns about the impact of regulations, saying they are losing out and warning around 200 companies will be leaving the market if authorities do not step in.
Marwan Abbas Shaban, head of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah, said each Umrah company was obliged to have two branches, employ 20 staff and spend at least SR1 million ($266,666) annually even if it did not receive a single pilgrim. The majority of companies operating in this sector were small and could not bear such costs, he added.
“We always seek officials to interact with us and we call on higher authorities to consider our demands,” he told Arab News.
Shaban said there were about 750 Umrah and Hajj companies with licenses, but only about 500 of these were in the market and they were only running at 1 percent of their capacity.
The Umrah sector was more profitable than the industrial sector, he added, and pointed to the value of land in the holy city of Makkah.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten approved updates to Umrah services following a meeting with the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah to discuss updates to regulations and instructions for Umrah companies.
Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdulfattah Mashat said after the meeting that the updates included allowing all IATA membership categories — including travel agencies, WTO certificates, or a certificate of membership of the World Travel and Tourism Council — as a requirement for the eligibility of an external agent.
The ministry updates also include giving pilgrims greater flexibility on transport options, Mashat added, and can be accessed on a portal that allows Muslims around the world to apply for an Umrah package digitally.
The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally.
Almost 1.1 million people used Maqam in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between over 30 companies providing travel, accommodation and other necessities for trips to Makkah and Madinah.


Minister of Justice approves new bankruptcy case rules

Updated 7 min 27 sec ago

Minister of Justice approves new bankruptcy case rules

  • Justice Minister and President of the Supreme Judicial Council Dr. Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani has approved new rules regulating bankruptcy cases’ procedures in commercial courts

RIYADH: Justice Minister and President of the Supreme Judicial Council Dr. Walid bin Mohammed Al-Samaani has approved new rules regulating bankruptcy cases’ procedures in commercial courts.

These regulations were issued after an agreement with the Supreme Judicial Council, giving effect to provisions of paragraph III of article 97 from the executive rules of the bankruptcy system.

They were developed after a survey of the requirements of those cases’ procedures in commercial courts, exploring competent and relevant authorities’ perspectives, and benefiting from the most notable international experience.

They include 24 articles regulating the procedures for reviewing requests under the bankruptcy system and its executive rules in commercial courts. The provisions of rules included: procedures related to jurisdiction and judicial processes in bankruptcy applications, duties of the unit specialized in managing bankruptcy cases in court, procedures for submitting requests and records, suspension of demands, precautionary applications, the inspection of the application and adjudication and the mechanism for issuing rules and decisions and challenging them.

Some of the most important rules which will be enacted after being published in the official gazette are: charting the course of bankruptcy cases from presenting the application until adjudicating it, and determining the case’s timeframe while taking into account the nature of bankruptcy cases. The rules also included activating the role of the administrative unit specializing in bankruptcy cases, and benefiting from modern electronic means in processing those cases, in support of the speedy completion of bankruptcy cases and the improvement of procedural labor in commercial courts which will lead to increased efficiency in bankruptcy cases.

They are expected to have an important effect in the Kingdom’s future classification for resolving bankruptcy cases in the World Bank's annual Doing Business report.