JEDDAH — Marking the beginning of the Haj Season of 2018, foreign pilgrims will start arriving in the Kingdom from Saturday (July 14 /Dhul Qada 1). The first batch of pilgrims will be from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
On Saturday, a Biman Airlines plane, carrying Bangladeshi pilgrims, will land at the Haj and Umrah terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport while a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight from New Delhi and a Pakistan International Airlines plane from Karachi will touch down at Prince Muhammad International Airport Madinah.
All preparations and arrangements are well in place to receive the pilgrims, according to the Saudi authorities and the Haj missions of various countries.
The Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has completed all the preparations for the pilgrims’ arrival. Abdul Hakeem Al-Tamimi, president of GACA, said that the authority has worked out an integrated operational plan to receive the increasing number of pilgrims from all parts of the world.
“GACA is working to implement the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to render the best ever services and facilities for the pilgrims, especially through simplifying and reducing the duration of their arrival and departure procedures and easing the air traffic flow during the Haj season,” he said.
A total of 6,072 Haj flights will be operated, of which 3,383 will be through the Jeddah airport and 2,689 through the Madinah airport,” he added.
All pilgrims from Malaysia and a section of pilgrims from Indonesia will have their immigration pre-clearance facility from their embarkation points for this year’s Haj. The Proof of Concept (POC) System for pre-clearance at the point of departure to Saudi Arabia is being implemented in coordination with the Saudi, Malaysian and Indonesian authorities. The uniform electronic path service dubbed ‘Makkah Road Service’ will be launched from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta.
Meanwhile, senior Indian diplomats met Minister of Haj and Umrah Muhammad Saleh Benten in Jeddah on Thursday to discuss the arrangements for the Haj.
Indian Ambassador Ahmad Javed, Consul General Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh, and Deputy Consul General and Haj Consul Mohammed Shahid Alam were among those who attended the meeting.
Javed briefed Benten on the preparedness of the Indian Haj mission for the smooth reception and comfortable stay of Indian pilgrims for the annual pilgrimage. The minister appreciated the great efforts being made by the Indian Haj mission, in cooperation with Saudi authorities and agencies, to ensure the safety and comfort of Indian pilgrims.
The minister expressed happiness over the successful issuance of visa through e-Haj portal over the last three years and was highly appreciative of the IT skills of the Indian mission. The Ambassador also briefed Benten on the proposal of transportation of pilgrims on board ships and requested the minister for assistance in making the logistical arrangements for smooth reception at the sea ports in future.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Consul General Sheikh said that there will be 410 pilgrims on board the Saudia flight landing tomorrow at Madinah airport. The first Haj flight from India to Jeddah will be on July 29 and there will be 420 pilgrims on board the Air India flight from Chennai.
He said that a total of 234 flights will be operated to transport 67,302 pilgrims to Madinah and 209 flights to Jeddah to carry 61,400 pilgrims. He said that the Indian Haj Mission has linked all its hospitals and branch dispensaries in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah as well as at the Jeddah airport Haj terminal with an online software system for the first time.
Sheikh noted that a total of 1,300 women pilgrims are coming for Haj without a mahram (male blood relative) for this year’s Haj for the first time. Anticipating high temperature during Haj, the Indian Mission has made arrangements to supply tri-colored umbrellas with “India” written on both sides to every pilgrim, he added.