A record number of 13.5 million Muslims performed the Umrah pilgrimage, making it the highest number of international pilgrims performing the ritual, says the Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq al-Rabiah.
Kingdom saw a surge of 58% in the Umrah pilgrims visiting the country in 2023. Five million more pilgrims visited the Kingdom in 2023 than the previous year.
“I am pleased to share some good and unprecedented news. The highest number of pilgrims arriving from outside the Kingdom in 2019 was 8.5 million. This year , and in light of the facilities introduced by the Kingdom’s leadership, the number rose to 13,550,000 million Umrah pilgrims,” al-Rabiah told the Hajj and Umrah Services Conference and Exhibition.
According to the minister, the country has invested $1.3 billion to upgrade the facilities at Holy sites.
To make things more comfortable for pilgrims, especially during the scorching summer months, the authorities have taken impressive steps. They’ve installed a whopping 150,000 new air conditioning units, providing much-needed relief from the heat. Additionally, they’ve constructed over 14,000 new restrooms and bathing areas, ensuring better hygiene and sanitation facilities for everyone making the pilgrimage.
Read more: Cost of Hajj Reduced by Rs100,000
The minister also talked about the e-visa facility launched in December 2023 for Umrah pilgrims. The e-visas would help the visitors easily obtain entry permits without having to visit the embassy.
Electronic visas are a game-changer in tackling health and security threats. They’ll crack down on forged documents, making it easier for authorities to monitor pilgrims and keep everyone safe.
As per the minister, leaders and ministers from 80 countries are participating in the conference. Hajj agreements will be signed with the participating countries. “More than 35 companies will provide their services during the Hajj this year, compared to 20 companies last year,” he said.
“We visited 13 countries and held exhibitions there with our partners from the public and private sectors, which had a significant impact on improving procedures and understanding the challenges. We worked with our partners to develop more than 200 procedures that facilitate the arrival of pilgrims,” he said adding that expatriates of all Gulf countries were also allowed to issue electronic visas to visit the Kingdom and perform Umrah.