MAKKAH: The journey of pilgrims visiting Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah is no longer confined to the two holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. They can now visit different cities and experience the ancient and modern wonders the Kingdom has to offer.
Hisham Madani, director general of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage in Makkah, said that the commission has the capabilities to execute all the ambitious tourist plans.
“We are looking to knowing the pilgrims’ demands, needs and their languages so the guides can be well-versed to enrich their experiences,” Madani said.
He highlighted the importance of training to ensure tour guides are equipped with necessary skills to carry out their responsibilities in a professional manner and to the satisfaction of visitors.
Rania Shodary, a tourist guide, told Arab News that serving Umrah pilgrims was an honor.
“We are eager to give them a better service to ensure they perform the rituals without any difficulty,” she said.
A bus service has been introduced to offer pilgrims a round trip from Makkah to Taif with tourist guides to show them historical sites along the way and in the two cities.
Taif’s moderate weather makes it a perfect tourist destination, attracting Muslims and non-Muslims to its breathtaking mountain sites and greenery throughout the year.
Visitors are also keen on visiting sites such as the Prince Saud Al-Faisal Wildlife Center in Taif to see rare animals and rose factories that make high-quality perfumes.
Mona Daghstani became a tour guide after completing a short course offered by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage in Makkah. She said that during the course she realized the importance of serving the pilgrims.
She said that the guides sit with the visitors in order to understand their interests. Daghastani said pilgrims want to visit Saudi heritage sites and learn about the history of the Arabian peninsula.
Another tour guide, Fawziah Harriri, told Arab News that pilgrims no longer want to remain confined to the holy sites, they want to enrich their experience by visiting ancient sites and markets in Makkah, Madinah and beyond.
Some pilgrims also ask about entertainment activities taking place across the Kingdom, Harriri added.
She added that they have developed a passion to visit Saudi universities, colleges and even attend lectures and meet knowledgeable people.
Itemad Ghazawi, a tour guide, said they work hard on lodging and transportation requirements to ease their trip.
Ghazawi told Arab News that some pilgrims “had very wrong impressions about some archaeological sites in Makkah.
“Many were misinformed about the place of birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions,” she said.