Saudi Arabia's Hajj authorities have announced arrangements for domestic pilgrims this year as the kingdom lifts severe restrictions on participation that were imposed in the past two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pilgrims taking part from Saudi Arabia will be able to book Hajj packages this week, Saed Al Juhani, chairman of the board of directors of the Co-ordination Council for Domestic Pilgrims, said on Friday.
Domestic pilgrims will be able to choose from three accommodation packages offered by local companies, he said. They can stay at the residential towers in Mina; in regular tents equipped with all services, known as the Deyafah 2 package; or in modern tents similar to hotel rooms, a new type of accommodation being offered for the first time, known as the Deyafah 1 package.
The cost of each package will be announced when the bookings officially open.
Food will be served in buffet style, Mr Al Juhani said, unlike in the past two years where pilgrims were served individual meals in accordance with pandemic health protocols.
The pilgrimage is open to under-65s who have been inoculated against Covid-19 with vaccines approved by the kingdom.
Authorities began restricting access to Makkah from last week in preparation for Hajj, which runs from July 7 to July 12.
Brig Gen Sami Al Shuwairekh, spokesman for Public Security, said that from Thursday only expats with entry permits were being allowed into the holy city.
"They can obtain permits from the security control centres at the entry points to Makkah,” he said.
About 2.5 million people from all over the world performed Hajj in 2019, the year before the pandemic broke. Saudi Arabian authorities allowed only 1,000 pilgrims from within the country to participate in 2020, and raised the number to 60,000 last year as the vaccination rate in the kingdom rose.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah last month announced that Saudi Arabia would increase this year’s Hajj capacity to 1 million, including pilgrims from abroad.
So far, applications from 150,000 domestic pilgrims, both citizens and residents, have been approved for this year's event.
Foreign pilgrims must submit a negative PCR test for Covid-19, taken within 72 hours of their departure to Saudi Arabia, to be allowed to enter the kingdom.
The UAE set out its own safety measures for citizens and residents preparing to perform Hajj.
Pilgrims must be under 65, have never performed Hajj previously, be fully vaccinated and have received a booster shot, the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority and the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments said.