The authorities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have allowed pilgrims to head to the Grand Mosque in Makkah Al-Mukarramah without having to buy transport tickets, saying the service is optional, local media from the gulf country reported.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said that the Umrah pilgrims and other worshippers can now go directly to the holy site to undertake rituals without the need for buying the transport tickets after getting permits via Eatmarna application.
“The ticket can be purchased either through the Eatmarna application directly or purchase upon arrival at the assembly point. The purchase from the assembly point can be made through ATM cards or paying cash,” the ministry said.
Cancelling the previously bought tickets can be conducted also via Eatmarna and get reimbursed within two working days on the condition that the refund request is made within 14 days of the buying date, Okaz reported.
Umrah is a voluntary pilgrimage that Muslims can perform at any time of the year. In February of 2020, it was suspended due to concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.
However, later, in October 2020, the Saudi authorities reopened the Islamic holy sites for Umrah after a six-month hiatus. It was limited to Saudis and foreigners residing in the kingdom who were allowed to perform rituals in the Grand Mosque with a capacity of 30 per cent, i.e. only 6,000 people per day.
In 2021, Haj received only 60,000 people from within Saudi Arabia’s borders due to the ongoing risks from the COVID-19 pandemic.
A total of 58,518 pilgrims performed the Haj in 2021. Of them 32,816 were male and the remaining 25,702 were females.
It was the second time in a row that the Saudi government had to reduce the number of pilgrims due to COVID-19. In 2020, only 10,000 pilgrims were able to perform Hajj due to the pandemic.
On October 17, 2021, the Grand Mosque and the Prophet Mosque in Madinah returned to full capacity.
On November 27, the ministry had set a minimum age of 18 years and has dropped the maximum age limit of 50 years for overseas pilgrims performing Umrah, as well as the permit for prayer at the Grand Mosque and Al-Rawdah Sharif at the Prophet’s Mosque and visit the Prophet’s grave following the easing of restrictions that were imposed following the COVID-19 outbreak.
On December 2, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that the institutional quarantine is not required for those foreign Umrah pilgrims who have taken two doses of COVID-19 vaccines approved in the Kingdom.