Saudi Arabia may allow women to perform Hajj without male guardian

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Muslim worshippers circle the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Makkah. ( AFP/ File)
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Muslim women pilgrims perform their sunset prayer at the courtyard of the Prophet Mohammed mosque in the holy Saudi city of Medina, 30 December 2005. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

Saudi Arabia may allow women to perform Hajj without male guardian

  • Ministry exploring visa options for solo female pilgrims
  • The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally

JEDDAH: Women could be allowed to perform the Hajj without a male guardian, Arab News has learned, with the government studying various visa options. Women are currently required to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimages with a mahram (male guardian), or be met by him on arrival in the Kingdom, although women over the age of 45 may travel without a mahram if they are in an organized tour group.
If women travel with a group and without a mahram they must submit a notarised letter of no objection from someone who could be considered their mahram, authorizing travel for Hajj or Umrah with that group.
But Arab News has learned that the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is conducting studies to issue visit visas for both tourism and Umrah purposes, and that this process is expected to pave the way for allowing women to come without the need for a mahram.
It is one of a number of developments in the Hajj and Umrah sector, with Arab News also learning that the ministry was urged to intervene in the sector to save businesses.
Umrah firms have raised their concerns about the impact of regulations, saying they are losing out and warning around 200 companies will be leaving the market if authorities do not step in.
Marwan Abbas Shaban, head of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah, said each Umrah company was obliged to have two branches, employ 20 staff and spend at least SR1 million ($266,666) annually even if it did not receive a single pilgrim. The majority of companies operating in this sector were small and could not bear such costs, he added.
“We always seek officials to interact with us and we call on higher authorities to consider our demands,” he told Arab News.
Shaban said there were about 750 Umrah and Hajj companies with licenses, but only about 500 of these were in the market and they were only running at 1 percent of their capacity.
The Umrah sector was more profitable than the industrial sector, he added, and pointed to the value of land in the holy city of Makkah.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten approved updates to Umrah services following a meeting with the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah to discuss updates to regulations and instructions for Umrah companies.
Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdulfattah Mashat said after the meeting that the updates included allowing all IATA membership categories — including travel agencies, WTO certificates, or a certificate of membership of the World Travel and Tourism Council — as a requirement for the eligibility of an external agent.
The ministry updates also include giving pilgrims greater flexibility on transport options, Mashat added, and can be accessed on a portal that allows Muslims around the world to apply for an Umrah package digitally.
The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally.
Almost 1.1 million people used Maqam in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between over 30 companies providing travel, accommodation and other necessities for trips to Makkah and Madinah.


500 visitors from 60 countries visit historic Jeddah

Visitors also attended a folkloric show including “Ardah” traditional dance, oboe and other artistic exhibitions, all performed by an artistic group. (Supplied)
Updated 12 November 2019

500 visitors from 60 countries visit historic Jeddah

  • Visitors attended a folkloric show including “Ardah” traditional dance

JEDDAH: Five hundred guests from 60 countries today toured the Historic ​​Jeddah area. The guests had already attended the international conference “Sustainable Marine Development Towards 2030 and Beyond” organized this month by the Public Transport Authority (PTA) in cooperation with the International Maritime Organization.

The tour included Umrah in Makkah and a visit to Historic Jeddah in the presence of the Vice President of the PTA Fareed Al-Qahtani and the authority’s employees.

The tour started from “Bab El-Madinah” (the city’s gate) and ended with a visit to “Beit Nassif” (Nassif Mansion), during which the visitors were acquainted with the house’s architecture and interior designs, and dined in the traditional houses to experience the authentic Saudi Hijazi flavor.

Visitors were accompanied by Samir Qumsani, founder and chairman of the Saudi Tour Guides Association, and tour guide Sami Khiari. They were given a full explanation of the history of the city and its various historical epochs, including ancient methods of construction with excavated stones, and “Rawashin” artistic designs that characterize the Hijazi traditional houses in Jeddah.

Visitors also attended a folkloric show including “Ardah” traditional dance, oboe and other artistic exhibitions, all performed by an artistic group.