First batch of foreign Umrah pilgrims arrive in Madinah after COVID-19 ban lifted

Riyadh: The first batch of Umrah pilgrims arrived at Prince Muhammad bin Abdulaziz international airport in Madinah, Saudi Arabia on Saturday, after an 18 months hiatus due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Saudi ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced on its official Twitter account, the arrival of the first batch of pilgrims, following all precautionary measures to receive pilgrims.

The first batch consists of 100 Umrah pilgrims coming from Irbil, the Republic of Iraq.

Officials of the ministry of Hajj and Umrah welcomed the pilgrims upon their arrival at the airport and presented them with flowers.

This is the first group to arrive in Madinah, after the first 50 pilgrims arrived at King Abdulaziz Airport in Jeddah on August 13, after the Kingdom opened Umrah trips for foreigners on August 10.

Umrah pilgrims from abroad are required to present a COVID-19 certificate on arrival that has been validated in their home country they have been fully jabbed with a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

“All Saudi Umrah companies have been preparing to serve foreign pilgrims and are dedicated to providing the best services to the pilgrims from the point of arrival till departure,” Arab News quoted the deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat.

What is Umrah?

The Umrah is a pilgrimage to Islam’s two holiest sites in the cities of Makkah and Madinah and can be undertaken at any time of the year. It is distinct from the Hajj, which takes place once annually.

Saudi Arabia stopped the Umrah after the COVID-19 pandemic, but reopened it to vaccinated worshipers in October last year.

The Hajj took place in July this year and last year, although it was only accessible to a limited number of domestic worshipers.

The countries currently facing the travel ban – prompted by the continued surge in cases of COVID-19 and its variants – are India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Lebanon.