Umrah package prices soar, tour operators double rates amid Ramadan rush

Pilgrims flock to the Grand Mosque to perform Umrah, Tawaf, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder to offer prayers as the government lifted all COVID-19 restrictions after two years. (File photo)
Pilgrims flock to the Grand Mosque to perform Umrah, Tawaf, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder to offer prayers as the government lifted all COVID-19 restrictions after two years. (File photo)
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Updated 24 April 2022

Umrah package prices soar, tour operators double rates amid Ramadan rush

Pilgrims flock to the Grand Mosque to perform Umrah, Tawaf, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder to offer prayers as the government lifted all COVID-19 restrictions after two years. (File photo)
  • Worshipers stood shoulder-to-shoulder in spiritual scenes after the end of social distancing measures for prayers and tawaf
  • Grand Mosque receives worshippers at full capacity post lifting of COVID-19 restrictions

RIYADH: Umrah travel operators in Riyadh have doubled the price of the pilgrim’s tour package from the regular price of SR110 ($30) to SR200 for each person, and this will triple in anticipation of a heavy rush during the Ramadan season.

This will further increase to SR300 during the Qiyam Al-Layl, the last ten days of the holy month, said tour operators in the Saudi capital.

“The huge rush was due to the holy month of Ramadan since most of the people want to spend these days in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah,” a leading Umrah operator in the city told Arab News.

“The hike in the package prices is due to the rush of pilgrims during Ramadan,” said the operator. They also cited an increase in VAT to 15 percent as one of the reasons for soaring prices this year.

Umrah package prices rise every year during the month of Ramadan. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it used to increase up to SR200 till 2019. In 2020 and 2021, the rush was limited due to the COVID-19 restrictions, but with things back to normal this year the Umrah package prices soared up to SR300 due to the rush of pilgrims.

FASTFACT

Over 3 million Saudi nationals and 3.4 million non-Saudis performed Umrah in 2021.

Worshipers and Umrah pilgrims returned to the courtyards of the Grand Mosque in Makkah in full capacity last month after Saudi authorities announced the lifting of COVID-19 precautionary measures and the return to normalcy in the Kingdom.

The General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque has reactivated its operational plans for full-capacity worship, with its field teams removing social distancing stickers.

Worshipers stood shoulder-to-shoulder in spiritual scenes after the end of social distancing measures for prayers and tawaf.

These preparations by the General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque came ahead of the holy month of Ramadan.

Mohammed Wakil Ahmed, a faculty member at King Saud University who went for Umrah with his family last Thursday, told Arab News: "The travel operators are now charging SR200 per person for a Thursday to Saturday Umrah trip as against SR100 to SR110 before the Ramadan season.”

The weekend packages for trips to Makkah and Madinah start at 4 p.m; from Riyadh on Thursday and finish at midnight on Saturday, he said.

He added that each family is given a large room, while single men must share a room with three other pilgrims.

There are about 100 Umrah travel operators spread throughout the capital, with a concentration of them in Hai Al-Wizarat and Batha districts.

Arab News went to various tour operators to check Umrah package prices. Anwar Badr Travel was charging SR250 for last week’s trip and SR300 for this week, Al-Saria said they charged SR230 for last week and SR280 to SR300 for this week, Al-Jiad travel said they charged SR190, SR230 for the weekend trip last week and SR280 for this week, while Al-Rushd travel charged SR250 for last week and SR300 for this week.

Rates tend not to vary greatly among Umrah tour operators in Riyadh. Buses leave from Hai Al-Wizarat and Batha districts with stops at the central bus terminal so that authorities can take a tally of the number of pilgrims.

During the journey, coaches stop at three points for Maghreb prayers, Isha prayers, and for dinner. Pilgrims change into their ihram at Meeqat in Taif, where they are given half an hour to don their ihrams at the Meeqat point, and they can perform Fajr prayers in the holy city of Makkah.

There are ample mosques, food outlets and boutiques along the routes from Riyadh to Makkah.

Flights from Riyadh to Jeddah are also filling up. According to a leading airline ticketing company in Riyadh, air ticket prices also spiked and ranged between SR1,500 to SR2000.

There are comparatively cheaper tickets for odd timings, but they too will total around SR1,000, operators said.


Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen

Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen

Saudi Arabia announces vital developmental projects in Yemen
  • Initiatives include 17 development projects in 6 sectors, valued at $400 million
  • A further $200 million will provide oil derivatives to operate power stations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has announced a number of vital developmental projects in Yemen to bolster the economy, the Kingdom’s deputy defense minister said on Thursday.

“The initiatives include 17 development projects in 6 sectors, valued at $400 million, in addition to $200 million in oil derivatives for power stations,” Prince Khalid bin Salman tweeted.

The projects will be carried out by the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen and aim to help the Yemeni people.

Prince Khalid met with the President of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi and members of the council to convey the Kingdom’s support and appreciation for their efforts.

The deputy defense minister said Saudi Arabia is committed to alleviating the suffering in Yemen and achieving security, peace, stability, and economic development.


Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com

Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com

Saudi Heritage Commission launches partnership with Noon.com
  • Local artisans will be able access to a larger consumer audience through the Noon Mahali program

RIYADH: The Heritage Commission on Thursday signed a cooperation agreement with Noon, an online shopping platform, to empower local businesses in Saudi Arabia, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

A ceremony was held at the Commission's headquarters to commemorate this partnership, which was attended by Heritage Commission CEO Dr. Jasir Suleiman Alherbish and General Manager of Noon KSA, Ahmed Abdel Qader Gadouri.

Under this agreement, Saudi artisans will be able to sell craft products and cultural heritage content online, gaining access to a larger audience through Noon's Mahali program.

The program also aims to assist local entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized businesses improve their product quality.

Dr. Alherbish thanked Noon for its cooperation, emphasizing the significant benefits gained through the agreement.

He also made note of the Commission's numerous initiatives to develop the handicraft sector, such as training programs and providing a consumer audience through outlets, exhibitions, events, and festivals.

"Our collaboration with the Heritage Commission demonstrates our ongoing commitment to assisting entrepreneurs and small businesses. The Mahali program helps local talent grow their businesses by providing them with the tools and services they need to reach a larger segment of customers in the region." Gadouri said.

The Noon Mahali program exemplifies the company's founding goal of empowering local talent through the development of a strong e-commerce platform.

The agreement is part of the Heritage Commission's broader efforts to strengthen partnerships with the public and private sectors as part of the Kingdom's cultural sector development.


Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future

Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future

Saudi Arabia offers global forum a vision of a new urban future
  • The Kingdom’s Architecture and Design Commission took part in the recent forum with a display featuring the King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism
  • Among the charter’s aims is the creation of memorable buildings and spaces that integrate cultural and national identity

RIYADH: An exhibition outlining Saudi Arabia’s future urbanization strategy may inspire a new community-focused approach to architecture following its debut at the 11th World Urban Forum in Katowice, Poland.

The Kingdom’s Architecture and Design Commission took part in the recent forum with a display featuring the King Salman Charter for Architecture and Urbanism, launched late last year to help develop the sector as part of Vision 2030.

King Salman’s architectural vision, developed during his five decades as governor of Riyadh region, was highlighted in the exhibition, which also showcased exemplary projects in the Kingdom.

Among the charter’s aims is the creation of memorable buildings and spaces that integrate cultural and national identity, as well as contemporary designs that meet the needs of local communities.

The commission hopes to increase awareness of the charter, and inspire architects and designers worldwide in line with the forum’s theme “Transforming Our Cities for a Better Urban Future.”

A panel discussion on the charter brought together CEO of the Saudi Architecture and Design Commission Sumayah Al-Solaiman, founder of Dabbagh Architects Sumaya Dabbagh, and Arup Group’s director of master planning and urban design Daniel Ringelstein.

Al-Solaiman said: “Our participation at WUF 2022 opens new horizons for applying the charter and presents an excellent opportunity to introduce the international public to its methodology. By showcasing the ways in which the charter has already improved the built environment, we highlighted the range of circumstances in which the charter can be applied to improve quality of life not only in Saudi Arabia, but also further afield.”

This is the exhibition’s first international appearance after touring through five cities in Saudi Arabia: Riyadh, Abha, Jeddah, Dhahran and Madinah.

The World Urban Forum was established in 2001 by the UN to examine the growing global issue of rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies and climate change.


First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj

First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj
Updated 30 June 2022

First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj

First group of Omani pilgrims arrive in Saudi Arabia ahead of Hajj
  • The pilgrims’ entry procedures were completed with ease
  • Thursday marks the start of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the month during which Hajj is performed

RIYADH: The first group of Omani pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom through the Empty Quarter port ahead of Hajj, Saudi Press Agency reported on Thursday.

Thursday marks the start of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the month during which Hajj is performed. The first day of Hajj, 8th of Dhu Al-Hijjah, will fall on July 7, and the pilgrimage will end on the 12th day of the month (July 11). Arafat Day falls on the 9th day of Dhu Al-Hijjah (July 8).

The pilgrims’ entry procedures were completed with ease, and the General Directorate of Passports is supporting sites designated to serve pilgrims with modern technical devices and qualified employees so that procedures are completed without delay, SPA said.


Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters

Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters
Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters

Saudi Police arrest 15 Hajj fraudsters
  • Illegal online adverts included providing transportation to the holy sites securing sacrifices for pilgrims

RIYADH – Saudi authorities arrested 15 people in two separate operations for offering fraudulent Hajj-related services, state news agency (SPA) reported.

Makkah police arrested seven residents of different nationalities for promoting fake services on social media involving Hajj performed on behalf of others.

The illegal online adverts also included providing transportation to the holy sites and hotels, as well as securing and distributing sacrifices for pilgrims, according to the SPA statement.

In a separate operation, Riyadh police detained seven residents for offering fake transportation services for pilgrims to Makkah. Another resident was detained for running an unlicensed website in Riyadh to promote fraudulent Hajj campaigns.  

The fraudsters were detained and referred to public prosecution.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah earlier warned against suspicious sites and social media accounts offering unauthorized Hajj-related services, stressing that the ministry's online platforms are the only official channels to book Hajj campaigns inside the Kingdom.