85 companies to transport Haj pilgrims

MUSCAT, Aug 1 – A total of 14,000 pilgrims — 13,450 Omanis, 275 Arabs and 275 non-Arabs — will be visiting Mecca this year to perform Haj rituals, the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs has said. A total of 27,000 Haj applications had been received from both Omanis and non-Omanis. Oman’s official Haj delegation, consisting of representatives of Iftaa and religious guidance, administrative and financial delegation, supervision of Haj companies, medical delegation, and media and scouts’ delegation, will take off on August 8 from Muscat International Airport. Shaikh Sultan bin Saeed al Hinai, Head of the Omani Haj Mission, said the ministry has approved 85 companies to transport pilgrims this season.

This includes 79 companies for carrying Omani pilgrims and three each for Arab and non-Arab pilgrims. “The Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs has signed an agreement for the preparations of Haj for this year with the Ministry of Haj and Umra in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said Al Hinai. The agreement includes regulations for travel and specifies the share of Oman. The Saudi side affirmed the compliance of the Omani Haj Mission and Hajis from the Sultanate. The Omani Haj Mission has also complied with the instructions regularising Haj affairs in Saudi Arabia, he said. “The Omani Haj Mission this year comprises delegations for Iftaa and religious guidance, administrative and financial delegation, supervision of Haj companies and medical staff, in addition to representatives of the Public Prosecution, Royal Oman Police, media and scouting delegation,” he said.

“We have signed an MoU with Al Ahlia Foundation for carrying pilgrims from Arab countries, which includes details of improvement and additional services to Mina and Arafat camps. A similar MoU has been signed with Al-Ahlia Foundation for Madina,” Al Hinai said. Most Haj pilgrims (40.9 per cent) from Oman this time are in the age group 30-45 years, followed by the 45-60-year group (38.5 per cent). A total of 12.3 per cent comprise those in the age group 60 years and above. There has been a dip in the 18-30 years’ age group, which accounts for 8.3 per cent. Six disabled and 15 cancer patients will also be carrying out Haj rituals. A total of 70.2 per cent of pilgrims are travelling by air and 29.8 per cent by road.

The ministry has devised a smart card system which has helped in making the pilgrims’ travel hassle-free. A total of 14,000 Hajis have been approved from Oman, which include 13,450 Omanis, 275 Arabs and 275 non-Arabs. Five per cent of 14,000 (700) comprises administrators, technicians, drivers and others who will accompany the Hajis to provide services. Al Hinai said the time specified by authorities in Saudi Arabia for Haj entry through land ports is 1st of Du Al Hijja, as per the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calendar and the last day is the 4th of Du Al Hijja.