​More than half a million pilgrims arrive for Haj

Jeddah (IINA) – More than half a million pilgrims from all around the world arrived for the annual pilgrimage of Haj, which is expected to begin on Sept. 21.
More than 40,000 pilgrims arrive on a daily basis. According to a statement from the General Directorate of Passports (Jawazat), a total of 473,329 pilgrims have landed in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah since the start of the Haj season until Wednesday. A total of 470,592 pilgrims arrived by air while the pilgrims came by sea stood at 2,737. This was an increase of 20,244 (4 percent) pilgrims comparing to the number of arrivals for the same period last year, the statement added. A total of 172,000 pilgrims have arrived via 861 flights at King Abdulaziz International Airport so far, said Turki Al-Theeb, the airport’s director of media and public relations. He said the number of Haj flights are expected to increase at the beginning of Thul Hijjah to an average of six flights per hour, or 144 flights per day.
On Thursday, Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar met with board members of the Mutawif Association for Pilgrims of Arab Countries to discuss plans, preparations and services to 280,000 pilgrims from 19 Arab countries. The association has completed all preparations to meet and assist pilgrims from all countries. Hajar said the employment of women in the ministry’s branches in Madinah and Makkah is seasonal, noting that there will be no exceptions for countries that are facing conflicts and that all countries and pilgrims will be welcomed and treated equally.
In this regard, engineer and “mutawwif” Abbas bin Abdulghani Qattan, board director of the association, said the directives are clear with regard to welcoming pilgrims and presenting the Kingdom in a positive light during the Haj season, noting that Haj should not be used to portray negative opinions or activities. He said 121 field groups consisting of 1,500 mutawwifs have been prepared and trained to assist pilgrims.
Meanwhile the head of the Mutawwafi Association for Pilgrims of non-Arab African countries, Rami Labani, said 10,441 pilgrims from African countries arrived in the Kingdom. Makkah received 5,045, while the rest are located in Madinah, he said. The association has provided 5,000 jobs to men and women during the Haj season this year with a 70 percent Saudization rate, he said. Abdurrahman Al-Nafeie, assistant deputy minister of Haj at the ministry’s branch in Makkah, said the ministry, tawafa associations and associated civil service groups are working as one team to provide the best services to pilgrims.
He said the ministry aims to issue a list of regulations for Haj affairs offices to ensure their duties and responsibilities are upheld as required, stressing the importance of cooperation among all concerned parties to ensure services are upheld and any outstanding issues are addressed and resolved. On Thursday, Al-Nafeie met with the heads of the Mutawwafi Association for Pilgrims of non-Arab African countries to review and finalize coordination of the working plan for monitoring and follow-up on all activities during the Haj.

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