JEDDAH: British Hajj pilgrims have returned to Makkah, ending a two-year hiatus because of COVID-19 restrictions.
A group of about 190 UK pilgrims who arrived on Saturday represent the first worshippers from Europe, the US or Australia to journey to the holy city for this year’s Hajj season.
Abdulrahman Shams, assistant undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for Umrah affairs, and a number of officials welcomed the pilgrims and offered them Zamzam water, flowers and souvenirs.
Pilgrims expressed their appreciation to the government of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the facilities and services that allow worshippers to perform their Hajj rituals with ease, comfort and tranquility.
Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdulfattah Mashat said: “The ministry is working to improve all programs that contribute to serving pilgrims, including registration mechanism for pilgrims from Europe, America and Australia for this Hajj season 2022, through an integrated online portal that includes a variety of package options and support services.”
The first group of British pilgrims is registered via the electronic portal www.motawif.com.sa, which the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched as part of a strategy to develop digital services for worshippers.
The portal helps to ensure pilgrims fulfil Hajj requirements, including completion of COVID-19 vaccination doses and negative tests. It also includes integrated services for communication in multiple languages around the clock and the issuing of visas electronically.
Earlier, British Consul-General in Jeddah Seifeldin Usher praised the Kingdom’s efforts in welcoming pilgrims.
“The role of Saudi Arabia in receiving the pilgrims and taking care of them while they are here is hugely important and greatly valued both by the pilgrims and the British government,” he said.
“We are grateful for all the work of the authorities every year and inshallah we shall see an increase as we go forward now after the very difficult years of COVID.”