Saudi Arabia allows
overseas pilgrims to use
mobile for Umrah visa

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JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has launched a new service that will allow foreign pilgrims to apply for Umrah permits and access to the Grand Mosque in Makkah as well as the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina through mobile applications, local media reported on Sunday.

Last month, the Kingdom eased coronavirus precautionary measures and allowed pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque at full capacity.

While social distancing measures were lifted, pilgrims were still required to wear face masks and make reservations to perform Umrah and prayers through the Tawakkalna and Eatmarna applications, in order to verify their immunity status at the entrances of the two holy mosques, according to The National.

The service is now being extended to overseas pilgrims, who can use the apps to book their Umrah trips and visit both mosques.

Worshippers perform the farewell tawaf (circumambulation) around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand mosque at Makkah.

The service has been launched by the Ministry of Haj and Umrah in cooperation with the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority, Arab News reported.

According to the ministry, pilgrims applying for the permits must first register on the Quddum platform. Travellers have been advised to download both Eatmarna and Tawakkalna apps on their mobile phones before arriving in Saudi Arabia.

On October 16, the Saudi interior ministry announced the easing of restrictions across the country, including those related to the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madina.

The next day, the Grand Mosque operated at full capacity, with worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the pandemic began.

Workers disinfect and sterilize the Grand Mosque in Makkah ten times a day to keep pilgrims and worshippers safe.

Saudi Arabia announced in August it would begin accepting vaccinated foreigners wishing to undertake the Umrah pilgrimage.

The Umrah can be undertaken at any time and usually draws millions from around the globe, as does the annual Haj, which able-bodied Muslims who have the means must perform at least once in their lifetime.

In July, only around 60,000 inoculated residents were allowed to take part in a vastly scaled-down form of the Haj. The Covid-19 pandemic hugely disrupted both Muslim pilgrimages, which are usually key revenue earners for the kingdom that rake in a combined $12 billion annually.

Grand Mosque disinfected ten times a day

The Grand Mosque in Makkah is disinfected and sterilized ten times a day to keep pilgrims and worshippers safe, Saudi Press Agency reported.

4,000 male and female workers carry out the cleaning operations and are supervized by 200 senior employees.

During the last Islamic month, 300 washing and disinfection operations were carried out at the Grand Mosque and its courtyards using 2,400,000 liters of high-quality disinfectant and cleaning products.

The mosque was also perfumed with 45,000 liters of scent, and 100 fragrance diffusers were used inside it, the report added.

500 appliances and pieces of equipment were used during the cleaning operations and each operation took 25 minutes to ensure that worshippers were not disturbed.

Shariah guidance in seven languages

Shariah guidance for Makkah visitors is being provided in seven languages. The languages are English, Urdu, Persian, French, Turkish, Hausa and Bengali, with translators at designated locations helping those with questions. 
The number of people who benefited from this service in the first quarter of the year was 23,135, through seven locations inside the mosque. The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, represented by the General Administration for Guidance Affairs, is providing the service through the “We Guide You in Your Language” program.
Meanwhile, the presidency has distributed more than 1,205,600 liters of Zamzam water at the mosque in three months. The total number of Zamzam water bottles distributed during the same period was 6 million bottles.