Muslims welcome Saudi Arabia’s decision on Sunday to gradually reopen borders and begin receiving Umrah requests from vaccinated pilgrims from abroad after about a year and a half of barring pilgrims due to the global pandemic.
“I feel relieved about the resumption of the umrah pilgrimage,” Ahmed Hamadna, 33, a sales manager in Egypt, told Agence France Press (AFP).
But he added that he was “concerned about the complex procedures and measures during the pandemic”.
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Starting from Monday, authorities in the ministry that coordinates foreign pilgrims will begin “receiving Umrah requests from various countries of the world”.
Makkah and Madinah will welcome visitors from abroad as the capacity rises from 60,000 pilgrims to 2 million pilgrims per month.
An official in the Hajj and Umrah Ministry said domestic and overseas pilgrims will have to include authorized COVID-19 vaccination certificates along with their Umrah request.
Vaccinated pilgrims from countries on Saudi Arabia’s no entry list will be subject to institutional quarantine upon arrival.
Though many people feel relieved to get the chance to perform Umrah, engineer Mohamad Ragab, an Australian resident, says he is still “hesitant” to perform the umrah pilgrimage.
“There will likely be crowds in Makkah and the chances of infection are high,” he said.
Umrah is called the minor or lesser pilgrimage because unlike Hajj it’s not compulsory.
Although they share common rites, Umrah can be performed in a few hours and involves fewer rituals.
Saudi Arabia stopped the Umrah following the pandemic but reopened it to immunised domestic worshippers in October last year.
The Hajj took place in July this year and last year, though it was only open to a limited number of domestic worshippers.