Nusuk is an electronic platform that provides services for both local and international pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.
It was launched by the kingdom's Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in December last year.
The Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr Tawfiq Al Rabiah, announced it during his participation in the Digital Government Forum 2022, titled Towards a Promising Digital Horizon.
He said Nusuk currently offered more than 121 services to assist the arrival of pilgrims from all over the world.
This year Saudi Arabia expanded the programme to benefit Hajj pilgrims from Europe, the US, Australia and more than 58 countries.
“The move will also raise the quality of the services provided to them to enrich their religious and cultural experience, while also achieving the objectives of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 programmes,” the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah told the Saudi Press Agency.
The kingdom has also lifted all travel restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic and has extended the Umrah visa duration to 90 days. It has opened the electronic visa option to include all citizens and residents of the EU, the UK, the US and GCC countries.
Saudi Arabia aims to launch many more services, packages and options to Umrah pilgrims to enjoy different experiences in the kingdom.
What is Nusuk?
Nusuk offers a user-friendly platform for international pilgrims to plan their visit the kingdom. It is for visitors who plan to visit the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
Nusuk is one of the initiatives of the Pilgrims Service Programme, launched by the Ministry of Hajj in co-operation and partnership with the Saudi Tourism Authority, as a unified official platform that enables those wishing to perform Umrah or visit to secure visas and permits.
Users can book for Umrah and to visit the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah through the portal.
Nusuk also assists users in applying for an e-visa, and booking flights and hotel accommodation.
It lists holy sites that pilgrims may wish to visit during their visit and offers a list of transport options they can use while travelling within the country.
Nusuk is linked automatically to Saudi Arabia's official tourism website.
The platform will soon have interactive maps for users, an events calendar and a digital guide to the kingdom's policies in different languages.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced plans for a free, contactless card at the Hajj Expo in Jeddah this year.
It will contain a pilgrim's personal information, including their address and health records, linked to a smartphone application.
The development of the card follows an agreement between Nusuk and the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments.
Saudi Arabia is set to host 2 million Hajj pilgrims this year, Dr Al Rabiah said.
The ministry on Wednesday said that those registered to perform Hajj from inside the kingdom can submit a cancellation request for their reservation directly through its website or the Nusuk application.
What is happening to Maqam?
Services offered on Maqam, which is already operational, will transfer to Nusuk later, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
Maqam helps international pilgrims to choose Umrah packages from authorised agents, apply for visas, flights and accommodation as well as book domestic tourism packages.
International pilgrims can choose Umrah packages from authorised agents in their home country and complete visa application procedures. Once the authorisation process is complete, applicants will receive a reference number to complete the online payment. The e-visa will be issued through the online platform within 24 hours.
Maqam helps authorise e-marketing platforms that provide services to pilgrims to officially integrate with housing, transport and ground services providers.
The portal helps users to book accommodation in the kingdom and flights to and from Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah.
In August, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced that the kingdom would allow visitors holding tourist visas to perform Umrah.
A male guardian, or mahram, is no longer required to accompany female pilgrims from any part of the world travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah.
Last month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that visitors can apply for a “personal visit” visa to visit friends who are Saudi citizens. Visitors can apply for the visa via e-visa services at the ministry's website.
The personal visit visa is valid for 90 days, allowing visitors to travel throughout the kingdom including offering prayers in the Two Holy Cities and making Umrah.
What is the Haramain Train App?
The Haramain train from Jeddah to Makkah or Madinah and between Madinah and Makkah is one of the easiest and fastest ways for pilgrims to travel. Those arriving to Jeddah airport can leave from the airport to perform Umrah or visit the Prophet's Mosque directly.
The train station is situated at the new airport terminal in Jeddah. The app can take bookings made in Arabic or English.
Pilgrims can download the app before their arrival and book travel using the smartphone app HHSR. Users enjoy a quick, simple booking process, with clear steps, where they can see all options for different days and times at a glance.
Prices and special offers are integrated with the train planner and central booking system, where passengers can make their choice months or minutes in advance.
Once the user books and pays for the train, the booking confirmation is immediately sent to their phones along with their tickets by email and SMS.
Users choose the date and time of travel, then can proceed to book the coach of choice, as the app provides a virtual map for seat locations with quick view of the coach. Users can pay with debit or credit cards.
The app also offers useful information such as customer care number and email to contact their staff.