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No plan to cut number of pilgrims, says Hajjar
Last Updated : Thursday, September 13, 2012 12:36 PM

Fahd Al-Manee’
Saudi Gazette

MAKKAH — The Kingdom has no plans to restrict the number of pilgrims during the next Umrah season.

Announcing this at a press conference here, Dr. Bandar Hajjar, Minister of Haj, put at rest reports that the number of pilgrims will be drastically reduced owing to the ongoing expansion of the Mataaf (circumambulation area around the Holy Ka’ba).

The new project will increase the capacity of the Tawaf area from the current 50,000 pilgrims per hour to 130,000 per hour. Authorities will be cooperating with construction companies to ensure the continuity of Tawaf and that there was enough space for worshippers to pray in safety. Over 1.8 million faithfuls performed Umrah pilgrimage this year, the minister said.

Hajjar’s press conference came at the end of his inspection tour of the South Asian Pilgrims’ Tawafa Establishment here, Wednesday.

“Reports that the government was planning a significant reduction in the number of Umrah pilgrims are baseless and untrue,” the minister told the press conference.

“The Umrah season has been successful by all standards. Overall 5.8 million visas were issued and about 5.5 million pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom,” he said.

Only 10,000 pilgrims overstayed their visas, the minister said, adding that the success of the Umrah season can be gauged from the fact that 2.5 million pilgrims came to the Kingdom in 2005 and out of them a whopping 500,000 overstayed their visa.

Adnan Katib, Chairman of the Board of Directors of South Asian Pilgrims’ Tawafa Establishment, said the meeting with the Haj minister tackled several crucial issues including the operation plans drawn up to serve the Guests of Allah during the Haj season this year. The issues included pilgrims’ housing, transportation, public affairs and planning. He said the plans, approved by the minister in Ramadan, would be implemented in earnest in the coming days.

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