The Ministry of Haj and Umrah has issued 370,000 Umrah visas until Friday since the start of the current season on Nov. 1 (Safar 1), according to a senior ministry official.
Isa Rowas, undersecretary for Umrah affairs at the ministry, said this figure posts an increase of 30,000 compared with the same period last year.
A total of 115,000 Umrah pilgrims have so far arrived in Makkah and Madinah. This is more than double of the number of pilgrims who arrived in the same period in 2015 when it stood at 57,000.
Rowas attributed the increase in the number of pilgrims mainly to the excellent facilities and services being extended in the two holy cities.
“There has been a qualitative leap in the operational efficiency in the fields of the pilgrims’ accommodation, transportation and food supply. The ministry has streamlined its monitoring mechanism so as to ensure that the best quality services are being offered to the pilgrims by the concerned agencies and service providers,” he added.
It is anticipated that there would be an increase in the number of Umrah pilgrims in the wake of the completion of the mataf (circumambulation area around the Holy Kaaba) expansion project. The capacity of mataf was increased from 52,000 pilgrims to 130,000 pilgrims per hour after the expansion work, which took three years to complete before the 2016 Haj season. The ministry had started preparations for the Umrah season immediately after this year’s Haj, with the departure of the last Haj flight on Oct. 15.
The ministry unveiled an ambitious plan to receive about 8 million Umrah pilgrims in the new Umrah season.