Pilgrims Hit by an Increase Hajj Costs
A civil society organisation and independent Hajj reporters have appealed to the Saudi Arabian government to reduce the tax that is given to pilgrims performing Hajj or Umrah at Mecca.
Visa fees were recently increased for all religious festivals
and events in a move to diversify the economy from oil, with fees now costing SAR6, 000, which is around 1600 US dollars, a big increase from the previous cost of SAR 650. If it is the person’s first pilgrimage then the visa fees will be paid by Saudi Arabia but for any further visits, the pilgrim must meet the fee. Other visas have increased such as the six-month multiple entry visa, which is now SAR 3,000, and the one year version is SAR 5,000, increasing to SAR 8,000 for a two year multiple entry visa.
These increased costs are in addition to the cost of the air ticket or petrol, accommodation, which always increases in price at religious festivals and spending money for food etc.
It is predicted that the cost of making an Umrah pilgrimage will triple in cost. This may not affect wealthy Middle Eastern or European pilgrims but if the pilgrim comes from a poorer nation such as Somalia, Ghana, Morocco or Nigeria for example, this increase may make the difference between them being able to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca or not. Of the 76,000 Nigerian pilgrims who currently make the Hajj and Umrah, it is predicted that with the new fees, this number will drop by as much as 40%.
The Umrah can be undertaken at any time of the year, as it does not have proscribed dates, whereas the Hajj is mandatory for all Muslim’s who are physically fit. Even though Umrah is not a requirement of Islam, it is encouraged to show devotion to Allah. The civil rights organisation and Hajj reporters although recognising the hard work that Saudi Arabia has put in to making the Hajj a memorable experience for all Muslim pilgrims from around the world, but that it should consider the economic background to many of the worlds Muslim countries.