MAKKAH: With the start of this year’s Hajj just a month away, the Saudi ambassador to Indonesia, Essam Al-Thaqafi, said the Saudi government is working hard to ensure it provides the best possible service to pilgrims from all over the world. This year’s Hajj is the first that foreign pilgrims have been able to attend since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020.
The envoy added that preparations by staff at the Saudi embassy in Jakarta have also been top notch. It was previously announced that Indonesia has been allocated 100,051 Hajj permits, the largest number granted to any single country.
Saudi Authorities announced in April that after two years of strict pandemic restrictions, 1 million pilgrims will be able to join the Hajj pilgrimage this year. This is a big increase over last year, when it was restricted to 60,000 pilgrims, all of whom resided within the Kingdom, but still well below the pre-pandemic total of 2.5 million in 2019.
Al-Thaqafi said the people of Indonesia were overjoyed when the Kingdom announced the expansion of Hajj numbers this year as the pandemic recedes. His embassy is coordinating with the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, he added, to ensure that the journey is as easy as possible for Indonesian pilgrims. Last weekend, he noted, the first group of foreign pilgrims to arrive in Saudi Arabia for Hajj came from Indonesia.
Al-Thaqafi also praised the Makkah Route initiative, and the assistance provided to it by the Saudi embassy in Jakarta. The initiative was launched by the Saudi Ministry of Interior in 2019 in five countries — Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Morocco and Bangladesh — to make it as easy as possible for pilgrims to complete the required checks and procedures, and make the journey from their home countries to their Hajj accommodation. More than 60 Saudi officials are working at Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Indonesia to provide services for pilgrims, the envoy said.
Some Indonesians have to wait for more than 30 years to get a permit for Hajj, said Al-Thaqafi, which means the pilgrimage is truly the journey of a lifetime. He added that the Indonesian people are generally known for being calm and respectful, and this is reflected in the way they conduct themselves during Hajj and Umrah trips.
“We all saw the arrival of the first batch of Indonesian pilgrims to Madinah a few days ago, and how wonderfully organized they were,” he said. Al-Thaqafi also commended the Saudi workers who will serve pilgrims during Hajj.
The flight carrying the first batch of 358 Indonesian pilgrims arrived on June 4, carrying 358 pilgrims. They were greeted by Mohammed Al-Bijawe, the undersecretary for visit affairs at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Abdul Aziz Ahmed, the Indonesian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and other officials. Upon arrival the pilgrims were presented with flowers, dates and bottles of Zamzam water.