The wait is over! Muslims since the beginning of 2020 have had to lay aside their hopes of traveling to Mecca and Madina for Hajj and Umrah purposes. The Saudi government had suspended Hajj and Umrah activities for foreign visitors soon after the pandemic started some two years ago. Only vaccinated Saudi citizens and foreign residents were permitted. It’s reported that only 60,000 people were permitted to perform Hajj in 2021, whilst just 1000 did so in 2020.
But things might be changing for the better as foreigners can once again hope to visit the holy places soon.
Since the 9th of August 2021, Saudi Arabia has begun receiving requests from foreign visitors to perform Umrah. Whilst plans are in the pipeline to open up the two cities for Hajj in 2022, those intending to perform Umrah can start planning right away.
After being closed to visitors from around the world for 18 months, Muslims are eager to perform Umrah or Hajj Being a lifetime aspiration for Muslims, the Umrah and Hajj are two of the most spiritually significant journeys one can undertake. All Muslims performing Umrah or Hajj can be witnessed being unified by one thing; their state of Ihram. The sight is spectacular with men donned in two plain cotton sheets and women dressed in black. The clothing may be simple, but the coming together of all the men and women to circumambulate the Kaaba creates a powerful image.
With a pilgrimage to Makkah not being complete unless one has visited the Mosque of the Prophet PBUH, pilgrims either begin or end the trip by visiting Madina. This was a place where the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) spent the last 13 years of his life. Now it is home to his place of burial. With an influx of visitors throughout the year, every person is brimming with excitement to pay their respects and convey their greetings to the beloved Prophet (PBUH).
Did you know that a tourism visa allows you to visit places beyond Makkah and Madinah? With a vision to become a major tourism hub by 2030, the Saudi Tourism Industry has now made possible the purchase of a multiple-entry visa valid for a year that will allow a visitor to stay in the country for up to 90 days. Being the birthplace of Islam and a significant place for religious history, there are many diverse landscapes eagerly awaiting visitors. From the diverse landscapes of the Ancient City of Hegra to the charming coastal town of Maqna, visitors will have plenty of options to choose from.
All this may be great news for aspiring Umrah and Hajj pilgrims. the recent rise of the Omicron virus has somewhat dashed the hopes of many would-be travelers to Mekkah and Madina. The new COVID-19 variant has deepened uncertainty surrounding the Umrah and Hajj in 2022. However, it may be too soon for the Saudi government to announce their final plans for this year’s Hajj season as the coronavirus situation is still volatile.