Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims performed taraweeh prayers and rejoiced as they broke their fasts at the two Grand Mosques in Makkah and Madinah after a two-year hiatus.
Pilgrims from all over the world are now able to perform Umrah at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, for the first time since the Covid-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic.
Unvaccinated pilgrims from abroad can now enter the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque, provided they are not infected with the coronavirus.
Pilgrims have to register for an Umrah permit using the Eatmarna app. This is checked by security at the gates and a separate entrance is allocated to those performing Umrah. If one tries to perform Umrah without having a valid permit, they will be fined SR10,000 ($2,660).
“Thousands of pilgrims from Indonesia, Pakistan and India are arriving every day to perform Umrah and also to spend a few days in Madinah at the Prophet’s Mosque during the Holy Month of Ramadan. The Grand Mosques are full of happy pilgrims, crying tears of joy – just grateful to be back after Covid-19 disrupted travel and limited numbers into the Holy cities,” said Aman Ul Haq, a tour operator in Jeddah.
“It’s like Covid-19 never happened. The mosques are full of large groups of international pilgrims and local worshippers.”
The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques has granted more than 2,000 permits to provide free iftar meals daily.
They are supplied in accordance with Covid-19 guidelines, with food served in sealed boxes, away from crowded areas such as entrances and corridors.
“We are glad to announce the return of itikaf [prayer in isolation at the mosque] in Haramain [both Grand Mosques]. It will be applied according to specific criteria, and permits will be available through the official website of the presidency soon,” Sheikh Abdulrahman Al Sudais, head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said last week.
This year, worshippers can sleep in the mosques during itikaf and leave only for ablution.
Pilgrims from abroad can now apply online for an Umrah visa instead of using foreign Umrah service agents as they did in the past.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said the e-registration process would include an Umrah programme including housing and transport services, and that the electronic visa can be printed by pilgrims themselves.