Indonesia is ready to send hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Makkah for the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage, an official from the Ministry of Religious Affairs told Arab News, with the first batch set to leave for Saudi Arabia next week.
The Hajj quota for the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation returned to its pre-pandemic figures in 2023. Saudi Arabia initially approved the pilgrim quota of 221,000 and later added 8,000 more.
“I think Indonesia is very ready; we’re just waiting for departure,” Arsad Hidayat, director of Hajj guidance at the Ministry of Religious Affairs, told Arab News.
Hidayat said the first batch will leave Indonesia on May 24, and officials are making final preparations also to accommodate the additional 8,000 pilgrims.
“There is an additional quota of 8,000 that was given by the Saudi government to the Indonesian government, alhamdulillah. We convey our gratitude to
King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as they never stop making efforts to expand services for Hajj pilgrims every year.”
In 2023, nearly a third of Indonesian pilgrims will be seniors, or persons above the age of 65. Some of them have waited to go since 2019, as during the coronavirus
pandemic and right afterward, older pilgrims could not depart due to strict health guidelines.
“Hajj is quite interesting in 2023, as we have adopted ‘seniors-friendly’ as a theme,” Hidayat said.
“For three years, senior pilgrims did not go, and they are only departing in 2023.”
Those flying from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta will be facilitated under Saudi Arabia’s Makkah Route initiative.
The program launched in Muslim-majority countries in 2019 allows Hajj pilgrims to fulfill all visa, customs, and health requirements in one place, at the
airport of origin, and save long hours of waiting before and upon reaching the Kingdom.
Nowadays, Hidayat said, traveling to Saudi Arabia is easier than ever before.
“I think this Makkah Route is really helpful,” Hidayat added.