Only 3,600 Jordanians will perform pilgrimage this year

(Photo: AFP)
AMMAN — Following the relaxation of the COVID-19 restrictions, Saudi Arabia this year accepts pilgrims from all over the world while also suspending all preventive measures aimed at containing the pandemic. اضافة اعلان

In conjunction with the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, umra trips are now open to anyone.

At the outbreak of COVID-19 two years ago, Saudi Arabia, which houses the world’s most important religious site for Muslims, was forced to close its mosques to worshipers in order to save lives and avoid infection, as the faithful flock from all over the world during hajj periods, which could endanger the devotees.

It had authorized umra trips under limited circumstances and with fewer people, as well as rigorous health requirements, while hajj trips were suspended.

In an interview with Jordan News, Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents (JSTTA) member and representative of hajj and umra companies Essam Al-Shaer said that the number of pilgrims this year does not exceed 45 percent of the number of pilgrims in 2019.

This year, in order to be able to perform umra, the faithful have to either have got the two vaccines or take a PCR test 72-hour prior to travelling, said Shaer, adding that “these limitations may be lifted when the hajj season approaches, as all past umra rulings have been reversed”.

According to Shaer, Saudi Arabia decides the numbers allowed to perform religious rites “because it is better aware about the numbers that it can accommodate”. That should not deter people from applying to perform the hajj, “despite the fact that it is impossible to anticipate what will happen in the next years”.

Shaer also said that thousands of hotel rooms in Saudi Arabia are still closed as a result of COVID-19, predicting that “if they reopen during the current hajj season, the cost will be lower, given that the cost of the hajj trip by land in 2019 was JD2000”.

Director of hajj and umra Trips Department at the Ministry of Awqaf Majdi Al Btoosh told Jordan News that Saudi Arabia announced last week the number of pilgrims it will receive during this hajj season.

Minister of hajj and umra Tawfiq Al-Rabiah announced on Monday the mechanism for determining the number of pilgrims for 2022, and said that the ministry is keen to see the hajj rituals conducted in peace, adding that studies to that end are still under way, in coordination with the health sector.

According to Btoosh, 8,000 Jordanians performed the pilgrimage in 2019, while only 3,600 are doing it this year, as the Saudi Ministry of hajj and umra determined that 1 million pilgrims from all over the world may perform these rituals this year: 150,000 domestic pilgrims and 850,000 from the rest of the world.

In terms of requirements imposed on pilgrims, Btoosh said that Saudi Arabia requires that pilgrims be no older than 65 and have received two doses of the vaccine. On the Jordanian side, the only requirement is that the “petitioner for the hajj must be doing so for the first time”.

Btoosh would not make predictions for the following years, as “each year has its own set of circumstances”, and it would be “premature” to do so now. 

In 2020 and 2021 hajj was restricted to Saudi nationals and residents; as such, Btoosh considers the influx of pilgrims from throughout the world this year to be “a great success”.

He added that Saudi Arabia had not announced any adjustments in the conduct of the hajj rites, such as changes to the areas of walking and tawaf (circumambulating the Kaaba).

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