The General Authority for Statistics stated in last month that Saudi Arabia got 1.32 million foreign Hajj pilgrims, out of the total of 1.86 million Hajj pilgrims this year. From October, a modified visa fee policy has been put into practice in the Kingdom. The new visa policies are coming due to Saudi Arabia’s revenues stricken by the low oil prices. Hajj and Umrah Minister, Mohammed Saleh Bantan, said that this is one of the numerous other decisions the ministry is thinking on. This week, the country’s cabinet has announced that from October, the Kingdom’s Government will raise the visa fees for Hajj and Umrah.
The new instructions affirmed that all new visa charges are not applicable for the pilgrims coming for Hajj or Umrah for the first time. The minister said that the Saudi government will bear the fees for first-time pilgrims, they do not want to put the burden on Muslims. The newly proposed fee structure demands the pilgrims to pay an Umrah Visa fee of about SR500 to stay in the Kingdom for a duration of maximum 5 days. Also, a fee of 2,000 riyals is to be charged for second entry. This way, a half year multiple entry visas will cost 3,000 riyals, one-year multiple entry visas will cost 5,000 riyals, while a two-year multiple entry visas will cost 800 riyals.
This new visa structure could bring in millions of riyals from the holy visitors alone. Saleh Bantan said that the industry needs to eliminate brokers. They want to welcome the guests of Allah through innovative projects and ideas. He also said that the old system of welcoming should be replaced and it should be free for the guests of Allah who visits for the first time. He said that a rise in visa charges may not be a big restriction for the repeating local Hajj and Umrah pilgrims. But those who want to visit for business purpose or meet family and friends will limit the number of trips and tours because of a high increment in rates putting a negative impact on it.
Bantan had a conversation at the final ceremony of the month-long Hara Makkawiya carnival which was finished on Sunday. Head of Al-Nuzha district, Sheikh Adel Amin Hafiz, said that the carnival displayed the past and traditional customs of the holy city. About 180 industrious families visited the carnival. During the carnival, more than 470 ancient times were displayed. During the fair ten educational seminars were held which hosted 20 government and private departments and received about 34 allocations.
The exhibition focused on various customary crafts, Al-Bait Al-Makki Museum, and creative families. It was an idea intending to present a clear idea about Makkah’s ancient neighborhoods and alleys to the visitors. Hafiz said that more than 200,000 people visited the festival. It was a chance for the young modern generation to consider the achievements of their ancestors in the past.
Source: Saudi Gazette
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