Findings set to help upgrade services offered to pilgrims
Saudi Arabia Authorities in charge of Islam’s two holiest sites have conducted field surveys aimed to measure the average time taken in performing Umrah or lesser pilgrimage in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.
The surveys were carried out by the Statistics and Information Centre affiliated to the General Presidency for Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques to make use of the findings in providing services to worshippers and work out future plans, the Saudi news agency SPA reported.
The main rituals of Umrah are circling the Holy Kaaba for seven times or Tawaf, and likewise walking back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwah, a rite known as Sa’i, in the Grand Mosque.
“The statistical surveys for pilgrims measure the time taken between moving from Tawaf to Sa’i, the carts used during both rites, and other data necessary for decision-makers to develop the field and administrative work system in the Grand Mosque,” said the centre’s head Mohammed bin Saad.
The surveys were conducted ahead of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which is usually the peak season for Umrah. Ramadan is due to begin this year late next month.
Saudi Arabia has in recent months unveiled a host of facilities for Muslims wishing to come to the country to undertake Umrah.
Muslims holding different types of entry visas such as the personal, visit and tourism visas are allowed to undertake Umrah and visit Al Rawda Al Sharifa, where the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) is located at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina after booking an e-appointment.
Saudi authorities have also extended the Umrah visa from 30 days to 90 and allowed holders to enter the kingdom via all land, air and sea outlets.
In yet another facilitating step, Saudi Arabia has said its citizens can apply for visas inviting their friends abroad to visit the kingdom and undertake umrah.
Late last month, Saudi Arabia launched a stopover transit visa, allowing the holder to perform Umrah, visit the Prophet Mohammed’s Mosque and attend different events across the kingdom.
The four-day transit visa is valid for 90 days.
Millions of Muslims, who cannot afford the Hajj rituals physically or financially, annually flock to Saudi Arabia to undertake Umrah.