ISLAMABAD: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry extended Umrah season by one month to allow more opportunities to Muslims to perform the ritual.
The ministry said extension ends on Shawwal 15 [July 10] instead of Ramazan 15 [June 10], the Gulf News reported.
Muslim pilgrims often perform Umrah during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramazan – which is associated with pious and charitable activities.
Umrah and Hajj seasons are regulated by the Saudi authorities to ensure that the holy sites and lodging in Makkah and Madinah are able to accommodate millions of visitors.
According to official figures, the Saudi authorities issued 6.4 million visas for Umrah last year. The figure was seven per cent higher than 2015 when about six million visas were given.
According to the data, Egyptians topped the list in 2016 with 1, 303, 067 visas – a 17 per cent increase since 2015. Pakistan came second with 991, 337 visa – 287, 024 more than 2015 while Indonesia was third with a 7.2 per cent increase since the previous, bringing the number to a grand total of 699, 612 pilgrims.
It is pertinent to add that the figures do not include nationals from countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council – who do not require a visa to enter Saudi Arabia.
The GCC, established in 1981, consists of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.