Saudi Arabia welcomed foreign Hajj pilgrims to Islam’s second holiest city on Saturday, the first since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country.
The pilgrims, who arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah from Indonesia, were presented flowers, dates and Zamzam water bottles upon arrival.
The flight, carrying 358 pilgrims, was received by Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Bijawe, undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for visit affairs, the Indonesian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr. Abdulaziz Ahmed, and a number of officials.
Saudi authorities previously implemented tight restrictions on the religious ritual to ensure the health and safety of all worshippers against the coronavirus.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said that registration for local pilgrims, citizens and residents wishing to perform Hajj this year continues until Saturday, June 11.
Applicants must be no older than 65 and must have a valid residency permit. The ministry said that priority will be given to those who have not previously performed Hajj and are fully immunized as per their status on the Tawakkalna app.
To perform Hajj this year, citizens and residents are required to have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
The ministry said that registration can be completed through the Eatmarna application, which allows pilgrims to review all available packages, or online at https://localhaj.haj.gov.sa. Pilgrims can create a list of preferred packages, choose from them, add companions and ensure that all their data, such as immunization status, is correct and their requirements met.
This year’s Hajj season will accommodate 1 million pilgrims, while ensuring people’s safety amid the continuing presence of COVID-19, and quality of services, according to Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah.
“We know that there are many requirements to perform Hajj for this year,” he said, “but the safety of pilgrims and their safe return to their countries remain our priorities.
“In addition, we were keen on using the Hajj technologies, including the pilgrims’ smart ID, which we will keep implementing this year to render the transport of the visitors of Allah easier and to ensure their fast arrival to their locations and tents whether in Mina or Arafat.”