RIYADH: MD RASOOLDEEN ARABNEWS
Saturday 29 June 2013
Local travel operators have raised the price of weekend Umrah package for Ramadan from SR 100 to SR 160 per pilgrim from Riyadh.
A rush of pilgrims is expected for Ramadan, which starts on July 9. This year, the peak season coincides with the summer holidays. A large number of Saudi and expatriates are expected to head for Makkah this year.
According to a leading Umrah travel operator in the capital, the weekend Umrah package on July 3 will remain at SR 100. There are nearly 250 Umrah travel operators in the capital but many are in the city center of Batha.
For pilgrims wanting to go to Madinah to visit the Prophet’s Mosque during Ramadan en route to Makkah, the cost will increase by SR 50. For an additional payment of SR 100 a pilgrim, accommodation could be extended to four-star hotels in the holy city.
According to a spokesman from Al-Rushd, a travel operator in the city, the weekend package to Makkah and Madinah starts at 4 p.m. from Riyadh on Wednesday, with buses returning at midnight on Friday. Each family is given a large room, with three bachelors sharing one room. Children under 12 pay half the fare.
An official at Anver Al-Shareefaine, a travel agent, said a five-day package to Makkah and Madinah including travel and accommodation will cost a pilgrim only SR 250. The offer includes a two-day stay in a three-star hotel in Madinah and another two-day stay in a similar hotel in Makkah.
The journey begins Monday and ends Friday. Pilgrims would leave Makkah after Jum‘a prayers so that they reach Riyadh around midnight. Pilgrims are given an option to choose a five-star facility for an additional payment.
During the journey, coaches stop at three points for Maghreb prayer, Isha prayer and dinner, and at the meeqat in Taif for pilgrims to change into the ihram, the two pieces of unstitched clothing required for male pilgrims. Pilgrims are given half an hour to don their ihrams at the meeqat, so that they can make it for Fajr prayer in Makkah.
The dawah centers in the city organize Umrah packages free of charge for single Muslims in the capital. According to an official of the Rawdah Center, there will be weekly trips to Makkah only for this segment of Muslims in the Kingdom.
A leading hotelier in Makkah told Arab News that the majority of pilgrims are likely to be locals and those from Gulf countries. Other pilgrims are expected from Turkey, Algeria, Iraq, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“This year, there are fewer people from Syria, possibly due to unrest in the region,” he said.
According to a source, there is likely to be 100 percent occupancy in Makkah hotels this Ramadan. The demand for accommodation is high because of the ongoing development work following the demolition of old buildings in the city.
During the latter part of the holy month, particularly the last 10 days, accommodation in five-star hotels will cost between SR 31,000 and SR 40,000 including suhoor and iftar for a period of 10 days.
Local hotels in Madinah, in liaison with local tour operators, have arranged city tours to historical sites. The places of interest include Quba Mosque, the first mosque built by the Prophet (peace be upon him) in Madinah; Qiblatain Mosque where the qibla was shifted from Baitul Muqadis (Al-Aqsa Mosque) to the Kaaba when the Prophet (pbuh) was conducting prayers; and the graveyard on the foothills of Mount Uhud where the Prophet’s companions were martyred.
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 northeast of Makkah; and Yalamlam, 50 km southeast of Makkah.