First batches of one million foreign pilgrims head for Saudi Arabia for lifetime spiritual journey

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

MAKKAH — Around one million pilgrims will stream to Saudi Arabia from all corners of the globe over the coming weeks for the first full capacity Hajj season after the breakout of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

The first batches of foreign pilgrims arrived in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah on Sunday, Dhul Qada 1, corresponding to May 22, which marks the beginning of the annual Hajj pilgrimage season. The pilgrims who arrived in the Kingdom on Sunday included those who came from Malaysia and Bangladesh under the ‘Makkah Route’ initiative while the first groups of pilgrims from India arrived on board the scheduled flights in Madinah on Sunday.

Foreign pilgrims were not allowed to perform Hajj during the Hajj seasons of 2020 and 2021 when the annual pilgrimage was restricted to limited number of domestic pilgrims and that was under strict COVID-19 preventive protocols and restrictions. Foreign pilgrims were allowed in limited capacity during the Hajj of 2022 under certain restrictions, including age.

The first batches of Hajj pilgrims arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah were from Bangladesh under the ‘Makkah Route’ initiative. Pilgrims from Malaysia were the first pilgrims to arrive at Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah. The pilgrims, under the Makkah Route initiative, commenced their spiritual journey from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The pilgrims from Pakistan under the ‘Makkah Route’ initiative also arrived in Madinah on Monday.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior expanded the Makkah Route initiative this year to include Turkey and the Ivory Coast. With this expansion, the initiative now covers seven countries including Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Ivory Coast.

The Makkah Route initiative, which is part of the Kingdom's Vision 2030, was launched in 2019, and it aims to streamline the pilgrims’ travel procedures from their home countries. The procedure involves the issuance of an electronic visa, collection of biometric characteristics, completion of passport procedures at the departure airport, and verification of the necessary health requirements.

With the help of a unique feature of the initiative, on arrival, pilgrims are directly transported via buses to their accommodations in Makkah and Madinah. Meanwhile, their luggage is delivered to their respective accommodation by service agencies, ensuring a smooth and seamless experience for the pilgrims.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah would continue to receive pilgrims through its sea and air ports, as well as through land entry points starting from Sunday. The ministry has launched its unified media identity for this year’s Hajj season 1444 under the slogan “Proclaim Hajj to People” via its 15 accounts on social media platforms to harmonize with God’s call to Prophet Ibrahim (may Allah bless him) and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to invite Muslims worldwide to perform the pilgrimage.

The media identity aims to confirm the Kingdom’s values in leading the Islamic world, enrich the experience of pilgrims in a way that realizes the goals of Saudi Vision 2030, and highlight the efforts of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah dedicated to pilgrims who travel from far to make their sacred journey.

This year’s Hajj media identity introduces the ministry and its roles in managing the season, educating pilgrims on Hajj rituals, and informing them about services, procedures, and the correct behaviors during the Hajj journey in all fields in 14 different international languages.

Saudi Saudi Arabia was able to achieve a major qualitative leap in the services and facilities being provided to the Guests of God. These included the automation of requests for visas to perform the ritual, arrival procedures and distribution of identification cards, in addition to receiving those wishing to perform Hajj without setting any age criterion, and without any specific requirements for women, in addition to making available special services for the sick pilgrims and pilgrims with special needs.