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.

Saudi, UAE officials discuss Hajj preparations

Updated 1 min 56 sec ago

Saudi, UAE officials discuss Hajj preparations

  • Mashat stressed the Saudi government’s keenness to serve pilgrims

MAKKAH: Deputy Hajj and Umrah Minister Abdul Fattah Mashat received in his office in Makkah on Tuesday the director general of the General Authority for Islamic Affairs in the UAE and his delegation.

The meeting came within the framework of early preparations for the next Hajj season, including coordinating arrangements for pilgrims and services provided for them.

During the meeting, issues of common interest related to Hajj were discussed, at the forefront of which were the facilities provided to pilgrims and easy completion of their procedures.

Then an official meeting was held to discuss arrangements and early preparations to serve pilgrims from the UAE. Subsequently, Mashat and the director general signed an agreement for Hajj arrangements.

In a press statement after the signing, Mashat stressed the Saudi government’s keenness to serve pilgrims.

The director general thanked the Saudi government and all those in charge of the Hajj system for their great efforts.

“We see excellence and advancement in the Hajj management system and by Saudi human cadres,” he said.

“We wish them all the best, and we in the UAE are part of this system and a partner in the service of pilgrims.”