(MENAFN - Arab News) Local Haj operators and various Dawah groups in the capital have come out with attractive travel packages for local pilgrims for the forthcoming Haj pilgrimage.
Around 200,000 pilgrims from the Kingdom are expected to perform Haj this year. The Passport Department started issuing Haj permits for residents and citizens from last week.
The Dawah centers in the capital, have offered an eight-day package for a package ranging from SR 1,700 to SR 3,500 for bachelors, which includes transport, board and lodging. The pilgrimage starts from Riyadh beginning Oct. 23.
Moulavi Ramzan from the Dawah Center in Rabwah told Arab News yesterday that the center has made arrangements to take 400 prospective pilgrims free of charge. The package is subsidized by a private company in the Kingdom, which is interested in helping the deserving people perform Haj this year. The company, he said, had offered such facility for 1,500 deserving pilgrims from the capital.
Besides the meals, he said pilgrims will be given accommodations in Minah, transport within the holy city of Makkah, Qurban - animal slaughter and a guide to help them perform the Haj rituals methodically.
"We have divided the groups by the respective language spoken by the pilgrims. These languages include, Tamil, Urdu, Bengali and Tagalog," Ramzan said.
The Dawah groups in Shifa and Dallah have also arranged their own package ranging from SR 1,700 to SR 3,500 per pilgrim.
A private group, which is linked to a Haj operator offers SR 8,500 each pilgrim accompanied by his family.
"During the pilgrimage, we will look after all the needs of the pilgrims except the Qurban, animal slaughter," a spokesman from the group told Arab News. He added that the pilgrims have to pay for the animal and the slaughtering charges. He explained that those who cannot afford to slaughter an animal can fast for 10 days in lieu of the Qurban.
The spokesman said that the offer is open both to families and bachelors who wish to perform the pilgrimage this year. He added that the increase of SR 3,500 in the package is solely due to the increased cost of accommodation, transport and food expenses. He also said that the intended pilgrims will be given an orientation program before their departure to the holy city.
Moulavi Rashad said that he has 10 vacant slots in his group.
"Our package is SR 8,500 which would include Tasreeh transport, metro train service, accommodation in Minah, meals and refreshments to suit the pilgrims' needs," he said. "We assure our pilgrims convenient transport and comfortable accommodation and meals during the entire pilgrimage," Rashad said.
Moulavi Mohamed Basheer said that he charges SR 4,750 for the entire pilgrimage which includes meals, accommodation, transport including the train fare and medical aid when necessary.
However, he said that the pilgrims have to look after their own meals during their travel to and from Makkah.
Pilgrims will be ferried to and from Makkah in luxury coaches. Basheer said similar arrangement has been made for pilgrims who proceed from the Eastern capital of Dammam. He pointed out that the accommodation for the pilgrims will be found in Minah H Division. The Riyadh group will take around 200 pilgrims during this season.
The travel operators also undertake to process the Haj permits necessary for the pilgrimage. Pilgrims are required to complete the standard forms issued by the Passport Department together with the copies of Iqama, passport, certificate of vaccination against meningitis, employer's consent letter and four photographs of the pilgrims.
Local pilgrims are allowed to perform Haj once in five years. Interested pilgrims could log into the online service of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) to check their eligibility to participate in the pilgrimage.
The Saudi government has made arrangements for the pilgrims to offer their Qurban through the Saudi Project For Utilization of Haj Meat in coordination with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). The prescribed timeframe for Qurban (animal offering) extends following the Eid prayers upto the sunset of the third day after the Eid, which makes a total of 84 hours.
Primary Healthcare Centers throughout the Kingdom would give the vaccination against meningitis free of charge to the pilgrims, while the private clinics charge as low as SR 70 per pilgrim.
Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Khalid Mirghalani said it is advisable to take the vaccination 10 ten before their travel to the holy cities for the pilgrimage. The vaccine is valid for two years from the date of injection.