DHAKA: Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia signed on Monday an agreement on Hajj quota, with the Kingdom allowing more than 127,000 pilgrims from the South Asian country to perform the holy pilgrimage in 2023, more than double the number last year.
Bangladesh’s Religious Affairs Minister Faridul Haque Khan took part in a signing ceremony in Jeddah with the Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, as part of an official visit to discuss matters related to the pilgrimage this year.
Bangladesh had received a quota of 60,000 pilgrims in 2022, when the Kingdom limited the pilgrimage to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Before the pandemic, Bangladesh was allowed to send around 120,000 pilgrims.
“An agreement has been signed between Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia which will allow 127,198 Bangladeshi pilgrims to perform the Hajj this year,” Shahadat Hossain Taslim, president of the Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh who was a member of the official delegation, told Arab News.
“Good news is that there will be no age limit for the pilgrims in this year which means anyone aged 65 or above will be allowed to travel to the Kingdom to perform the Hajj.”
Saudi authorities had set an age limit during the 2022 Hajj season, requiring pilgrims to be younger than 65 and fully vaccinated to perform the pilgrimage.
As the Kingdom appears set to revoke the age limit this year, prospective pilgrims from Bangladesh have welcomed the move.
“I have been waiting to perform the Hajj since 2020 but failed to do so due to COVID-19 restrictions,” Ashraful Alam, a 67-year-old farmer from the northern city of Rajshahi, told Arab News.
“Since there will be no age limit in this year, I hope Allah will grant me the opportunity to perform Hajj pilgrimage traveling to the sacred land of Makkah.”
Mohammed Kibria, a 63-year-old businessman from the southern city of Barishal, said: “I am very happy to know that the quota for Bangladeshi pilgrims this year will not be limited,” he told Arab News.
“I intend to perform the Hajj this year along with my wife and two sons. I hope to start the pilgrimage preparations soon.”
Kibria added that he was looking forward to taking part in the Makkah Route initiative, a streamlined service launched in 2019 dedicated to Hajj pilgrims and aimed at easing their immigration process to enter Saudi Arabia.
Bangladesh was among five Muslim-majority countries — including Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Morocco — where Saudi Arabia operated its Makkah Route initiative last year.
“Makkah Route initiative will be a big blessing for the Bangladeshi pilgrims as all the immigration formalities will be completed in Dhaka before flying to the Kingdom. There will be no more hours-long queue,” Kibria said.