Saudi Arabia: Umrah visa can now be converted to tourist visa

Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Makka (Saudi Arabia) by Muslims of all races, from the Four Corners of the Earth. For over fourteen hundred years since the farewell pilgrimage of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), millions of Muslims have gathered for the same ritual.

Hajj is one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam. The other four pillars are belief in God and His Prophet, Mohammad (PBUH), five obligatory daily prayers at appointed times, fastingin the month of Ramadan for 29 or 30 days and alms giving. Of all five fundamental principles of Islam, only Hajj is performed in a specific place – Makka. Thus, millions of Muslims assemble in one place (Makka), at the same time, between 8th and 13th Zul-Hijjah (the 12th month of Muslim lunar calendar) to perform religious rites.

Following announcement of his Royal Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and custodian of the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, the Saudi cabinet approved a comprehensive vision 2030 for the oil rich Kingdom. One of those reforms includes Hajj operations for Muslims round the globe.

Chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs and deputy crown prince, Muhammad Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, made the revelations known when he presented the vision 2030 to Saudis.

According to the young prince, “Focusing our efforts to serve Umrah visitors Saudi Arabia has assumed a prominent place in the world and has become synonymous with hospitality and a warm welcome to all Muslims. As such, it has carved a special place in the hearts of pilgrims and the faithful everywhere. In the last decade, the number of Umrah visitors entering the country have reached eight million people.

“It requires us to spare no effort in seeking to offer pilgrims with all they need so we fulfill our duty to provide good hospitality to our brothers and sisters. In this context, we have recently begun a third expansion of the Two Holy Mosques as well as modernizing and increasing the capacities of our airports. This will increase our capacity to welcome Umrah visitors from 8 million to 30 million every year.”

In reaction to this, the President of Tourism and National Heritage authority, Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, said Umrah (minor Hajj) visitors can now extend their hajj visa to see the landmarks of the country, Islamic historic sites, touristy attractive places and shopping centers. They might also opt to make cultural, medical, educational and marketing tours, visit exhibitions and attend conferences after having completed their Umrah trips, he added.

The program requires that Umrah performers can translate their visas to tourist visas which grants them additional rights to visit areas outside of Mecca and Medinah. The new program is strictly supervised by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.