Come November, Umrah pilgrims can don tourist hats

Updated 30 June 2015

Come November, Umrah pilgrims can don tourist hats

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is expected to launch “Umrah Plus” program in November, corresponding to the second month of 1437 AH, which will allow pilgrims to visit tourist sites in the Kingdom.
At present, foreign Umrah pilgrims are only allowed to visit Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah.
Saad Al-Qurashi, chairman of the transportation committee and a member of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), said: “The idea of Umrah Plus enables pilgrims to contract with a tour company and develop an integrated tourism program based on their desires to visit tourist sites in the Kingdom after performing Umrah. There are many places that can be visited such as Madain Saleh in Tabuk and Al-Okhdood archaeological site in Najran.”
Al-Qurashi explained that the prices of tours would be according to the number of days selected by the pilgrim and that the licensed Umrah companies would be able to implement this program.
“The program will lead to more job opportunities for Saudi youth, and revive the trade and economic movement in the local market, especially in the hotel and tourism industry,” he said.
About the current Umrah season, he said: “This season is good with the presence of 500,000 pilgrims during Ramadan.”
It said that the Haj Ministry and the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities had completed all arrangements in cooperation with the Ministries of Interior and the Municipal and Rural Affairs to facilitate the arrival of pilgrims at all tourist sites they wish to visit in coordination with the Umrah companies.

Saudi Arabia confirms no change in Israel travel rules

Updated 27 January 2020

Saudi Arabia confirms no change in Israel travel rules

  • Foreign minister says Israeli passport holders are still unable to visit the the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has confirmed that Israeli citizens are still unable to visit the Kingdom.

Foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the policy has not changed despite Israel saying on Sunday that its passport holders could now travel to the country for religious and business visits.

“Our policy is fixed,” Prince Faisal told CNN. “We do not have relations with the state of Israel and Israeli passport holders cannot visit the Kingdom at the current time.”

His comments come as Donald Trump prepares to unveil his Middle East peace plan on Tuesday. An agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be key to improving relations with Arab countries, most of which have no diplomatic ties with Israel.

“When a peace agreement is reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis, I believe the issue of Israel’s involvement in the region will be on the table,” Prince Faisal added.

Israel’s interior minister said on Sunday that Israelis - if invited and permitted by Saudi authorities - would be allowed to travel there for religious reasons on pilgrimage or for up to nine days for business reasons such as investment or meetings.

Israelis, mostly Muslims going on pilgrimage, do visit the Kingdom, but usually with special permission or using foreign passports.

Saudi Arabia, along with most Arab countries have no official diplomatic relations with Israel, and citizens of those countries are not able to travel to Israel nor Israelis to those countries.

However, relations between Israel and Gulf states have improved in recent years, particularly over a shared stand against Iran and its aggressive policies in the region.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that he welcomed Israel’s warming ties to Arab countries in the region.

In 2018, Netanyahu visited Oman and met the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

*With Reuters