Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah stated recently that the country is gearing up to host a million pilgrims in Hajj 2022 as the COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed.
In a recent press meeting, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, highlighted that they have planned to expand the Hajj pilgrimage this year to accommodate over a million pilgrims as compared to a few thousand last year. The COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed, but caution against the virus is still a priority. That is why only vaccinated Muslims of a maximum of 65 years of age will be allowed to attend the pilgrimage. Additionally, these pilgrims will have to produce a negative COVID PCR test. All these decisions have been made keeping the COVID situation in mind.
In 2021, Hajj was only open to domestic pilgrims as international flights were restricted, and the threats of the pandemic were still looming large. Nevertheless, the country still managed to have over 60000 pilgrims last season while being a testimony to more than 2 million pilgrims in the pre-pandemic years.
Saudi Arabia is keen on conducting the Hajj and ensuring everything runs smoothly and easily. However, Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and many people missed out on this golden opportunity last year due to the pandemic. The country is determined to alleviate its pilgrimage services so it can accommodate as many pilgrims in Hajj 2022 as possible without compromising their safety.
Hajj 2022 preparations
The country aims at expanding its pilgrimage capacity by making the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah more accessible and tourist-friendly. The country keeps all pilgrims’ safety and safe return on the list of high priorities. New Hajj technology will also be introduced this year to ease mobility from Makkah to Madinah and back to home destinations. Smart IDs will be given to pilgrims, which will allow them faster and easier access to transport around the two cities. Earlier private agencies helped in receiving and transporting foreign visitors to Makkah and Madinah. With the launch of the online Umrah Visa, those planning to perform Umrah can easily apply for their visas online and book accommodation, transport, and other services. The visas will be issued in less than 24 hours and will be valid for one to three months.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah also added that a foreign visitor traveling to Saudi Arabia for Umrah would be permitted to move freely between different cities in the Kingdom without any restrictions. And that the Ministry will continue to give all that is required to enrich the experience of the pilgrimage and increase its capacity. The e-service to facilitate the Umrah Visa is extremely easy and simple, and the services of trustworthy agencies and companies are also available on the website. Now the Ministry is working on another platform called ‘Nusk’ to enhance the visitors’ digital experience. It is one of the forthcoming initiatives the country is working on to enrich the holy experience and increase the level of service.
While the country gears up to host the world’s biggest pilgrimage, foreign pilgrims are also ready to prepare for the new guidelines that are soon to be announced in detail.