Saudi Arabia will allow international pilgrims to perform Umrah from August 10, state media said on Sunday as the kingdom reopened the Grand Mosque in Makkah to domestic Umrah pilgrims after the Hajj pilgrimage last week.
Authorities restricted access to the mosque to Hajj pilgrims earlier this month as part of precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 during the annual pilgrimage.
People wishing to perform the Umrah pilgrimage must first receive approval to do so and must follow safety guidelines. The pilgrims on Sunday abided by precautionary measures laid down by the General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque, the Saudi state news agency said.
Local pilgrims can use the Eatmarna app to book a time slot for Umrah or to offer prayers at the Holy Mosque.
“I went on Eatmarna to book an appointment but they’re booked out for the rest of the month. People booked it within seconds,” says Dina Zidaan, an Egyptian resident of Jeddah.
“I can’t wait to go to the Grand Mosque and offer salah and perform Umrah. As soon as flights reopen that’s the first thing I’m going to do,” said Mubeen Islam, a UAE resident.
More than 500 Umrah service companies and 6,000 foreign Umrah agents will help pilgrims around the world book packages via 30 different websites, said Hani Ali Al-Amiri, member of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah.
Pilgrims will be able to select their packages online which will entail flight bookings and on-ground services including transportation services, hotel bookings and meals.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah have approved the list of companies that will provide B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) services globally.
Saudi Arabia conducted the Hajj for 60,000 pilgrims this year without registering any cases of the coronavirus, authorities said last week. Participation was restricted to citizens and residents of the kingdom who met the health criteria.
Saudi Minister of Health Dr Tawfiq Al Rabiah said complex planning to maintain social distancing and insisting on vaccination for all pilgrims resulted in a successful Hajj "free from coronavirus and other epidemic diseases".
Normally, about 2.5 million Muslims from around the world travel to Makkah to participate in the pilgrimage.
About three million people entered the Grand Mosque during Ramadan, the authorities said in May.
A team of 4,000 workers sterilises and disinfects the Grand Mosque and its courtyards 10 times a day.