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MENAFN - Arab News - 15/01/2014
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(MENAFN - Arab News) With the beginning of Umrah season now falling in December, a three-day pilgrimage package is being sold at as low as SR110 in Riyadh.

Announcing the beginning of Umrah season last month, Haj Minister Bandar Hajjar pledged the readiness of his ministry and Haj-related institutions in the Kingdom to provide the most advanced services to Umrah pilgrims

Hajjar said all foreign Umrah applications are electronically processed at Saudi embassies and consulates abroad

Last year, around 5.5 million Umrah performers came to the Kingdom, he said, while this year, the government expects more than 6 million pilgrims in the nine months ahead

A return fare from Riyadh to Makkah by luxury coach, which includes accommodation in the holy city, will cost SR110 per pilgrim. There will be an additional charge of SR20 if the pilgrim opts to visit the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah en route to Makkah.

Accommodation can be upgraded to four-star standards at SR100 per pilgrim.

According to a spokesman from an Umrah travel operator in the city, the weekend package to Makkah and Madinah begins at 4 p.m. from Riyadh on Thursday and ends on Saturday at midnight.

Families are given large rooms, while bachelors share a room that can accommodate up to three people. Children under 12 pay only half the fare

Another travel agent said a five-day package to Makkah and Madinah, including travel and accommodation, will cost a pilgrim only SR200.
The offer includes a two-day stay at a three-star hotel in Madinah and another two-day lodging at a similar hotel in Makkah.

The journey begins on Tuesday and ends on Saturday

Pilgrims are given an option to choose a five-star facility on additional payment.

There are more than 200 Umrah travel operators in the capital, but they are predominantly located in the city center of Batha

During the journey, coaches stop for Maghrib (dusk) prayers, Isha (evening) prayers and dinner, in addition to the "meeqat" (point at which Muslims must don attire for performing pilgrimage) in Taif for allowing the pilgrims to wear their "ihram" (attire worn during the pilgrimage).

Pilgrims are given half an hour to change at the meeqat so that they can pray Fajr (morning) prayers in Makkah.

Places of interest in the holy city of Madinah include Quba Mosque, the first mosque built by the Holy Prophet in Madinah, the Qiblatain Mosque, where the "qibla" (direction toward which Muslims face during prayer) was shifted from "Baitul Muqadis" (Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem) to the Holy Kaaba in Makkah, and the graveyard on the foothills of Mount Uhud where soldiers during the Prophetic period were martyred in battle

The Meeqat points include Dhul Hulayfah, 9 km from Madinah, Juhfah, 190 km to the northwest of Makkah, Qarn Al-Manazil, 90 km to the east of Makkah, Dhat Irq, 85 km toward the northeast side of Makkah and Yalamlam, 50 km to the southeast of Makkah


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