CAIRO – As millions of Muslims anticipate the fasting month of Ramadan, the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah are expected to receive seven million pilgrims during the holy month from across the world.
According to figures revealed by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj, Egypt ranked first in terms of the grant of Umrah visas with 1,275,785 visas; Pakistan came second with 918,063 and Indonesia third with 655,163 pilgrims, Arab News reported on Monday, May 23.
Mohammad Bejawi of the Ministry of Haj and Umrah in Madinah added that India received 436,000 visas; Turkey 439,000, Jordan 343,000, Algeria 313,000, Malaysia 211,000, Iraq 183,000, Britain 77,000 and the rest of the world 695,000.
Meanwhile, Abdul Wahid Al-Hattab of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques reviewed the operational plan for Umrah season, in which 5,000 employees participate in cooperation with all service directorates.
He said the presidency offers cool Zamzam water inside the Prophet’s Mosque and Grand Mosque.
He confirmed that prayer areas have been laid with good quality carpets inside and on the roof of the two mosques and that the areas are kept clean around the clock.
Al-Hattah added that the Prophet’s Mosque’s yards have been provided with 436 fans to offer cool surroundings and 250 shades to protect pilgrims from the heat of the sun.
He said 100 gates and six pedestrian paths have been allocated to worshippers in addition to 20 carts for the elderly and the disabled.
Pilgrims lauded facilities and services provided by the Kingdom to ensure their comfort while performing their prayers.
Abdul Noor from Algeria said they were happy to be in Madinah especially since this is the first time he is performing Umrah.
Bin Shanqi, also Algerian, was also satisfied with the services, especially airport officials.
He added that the Prophet’s mosque and its supporting facilities are kept clean around the clock and cool water is available inside and outside the mosque.
Mohammed Salah, an Egyptian pilgrim, said services were very good with fans spraying water on worshippers to cool the atmosphere in the heat.
Saudi authorities are spending more than $20bn upgrading and expanding Islam’s holiest site to accommodate more pilgrims.
Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur’an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.
Starting from 2016, 1.25 million pilgrims are expected to arrive every month compared to 400,000 in each month during 2015.
According to hajj ministry, five million Umrah visas were issued in 2013 and six million each during 2014 and 2015.
It is expecting 10 million visas to be issued in 2016 and 60 million by 2018.