Almost 2 million pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia from around the world to perform the lesser pilgrimage, Umrah, since the start of the Umrah season on 30 July coinciding with the Islamic date of 1 Muharram.
According to the Saudi Gazette, the air, land and sea ports in the kingdom recorded the arrival of 1,964,964 pilgrims from outside the country. The ten-month Umrah season will end just before the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
Pilgrims from Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, formed the majority of foreign pilgrims at 551,410. Pakistan came second with 370,083 pilgrims, followed by India with 230,794 pilgrims. More than 150,000 pilgrims came from neighbouring Iraq, while 101,657 arrived from Egypt.
Two weeks ago Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr Tawfiq Al-Rabia,h announced that the Umrah visa had been extended from one month to three months, applicable to all nationalities. Last month the kingdom announced that female pilgrims no longer needed a male guardian, or mahram to travel to perform Umrah. The ministry also said there is no quota or limit for the number of Umrah visas to be issued for Muslims from all over the world.