JEDDAH: The first batch of Hajj 2022 pilgrims from Bangladesh arrived in Jeddah on Monday through a dedicated Makkah Route lounge at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
The Makkah Route initiative is part of Saudi Arabia's Guests of God Service Program, which King Salman inaugurated in 2019 and seeks to provide visitors to the holy sites with the finest possible services to help them perform their Hajj rituals easily and comfortably.
The arrival of this year’s pilgrims from outside Saudi Arabia comes after a two-year interruption brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Bangladeshi pilgrims were seen off at the airport by Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Bangladesh Issa bin Youssef Al-Duhailan, who had earlier inspected the lounge’s readiness.
Top Bangladeshi officials, including the Minister of State for Religious Affairs Mohammad Faridul Haq Khan and the Minister of Civil Aviation and Tourism Mahbub Ali, were also present at the airport to wish the pilgrims a safe journey to the holy sites.
The Makkah Route initiative is being implemented in collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, the Guests of God Service Program, Saudi Passports, and the Saudi digital security firm Elm Co.
It includes issuing visas, ensuring the pilgrims’ biological characteristics and compliance with health requirements, and codifying and sorting luggage at airports in pilgrims’ home countries. Five countries are in the initiative: Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco, and Bangladesh.
According to a Saudi Passports official, each Bangladeshi pilgrim from the initiative in 2019 took between 20 and 25 seconds to have their travel procedures finalized at the Dhaka lounge.
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said the government had worked for months to utilize all its capabilities to provide pilgrims with the best services.
It also stressed its readiness to receive this year’s pilgrims in cooperation with all government agencies.
Saudi Arabia is increasing this year’s Hajj capacity to 1 million pilgrims, with all the necessary health measures to be taken for everyone’s safety.