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JEDDAH: Malaysian and Indonesian Hajj pilgrims arrived in Madinah on Thursday as part of this year’s Makkah Route initiative.

They were received at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport by representatives from the initiative’s sponsoring agencies.

The initiative is being implemented in collaboration with the Health Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, the Guests of God Service Program, Saudi Passports, and the Saudi digital security firm Elm Co.

On Wednesday, the first group of Makkah Route pilgrims from Pakistan landed in Madinah, where they were received by the chief of the Madinah Passports department, Maj. Gen. Khalid Al-Otaibi, and initiative officials.

Before that, Hajj 2022 pilgrims from Bangladesh arrived at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport. They had earlier passed through a dedicated Makkah Route lounge at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

Malaysian Hajj 2022 pilgrims arrive in Madinah. (SPA)

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, said the initiative facilitated travel procedures for pilgrims to perform their Hajj rituals.

“The initiative also helps in improving the services provided to pilgrims in a way that reflects the Kingdom’s leading role in serving Muslims from different parts of the world. It also provides comfort for pilgrims and helps them do their rituals in peace before they return to their countries. The initiative, which is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 programs, is a great success in the service of pilgrims, which gets the utmost care and attention of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” Al-Malki said.

The Malaysians left Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Wednesday night through the initiative’s lounge. The Indonesian pilgrims left Jakarta International Airport late Wednesday. They were seen off by some Saudi and Indonesian officials.

Minister Plenipotentiary of Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Indonesia, Abdullah Muq’id Al-Mutairi, said the pilgrims were heading to Hajj through the initiative for the third time.

“The initiative aims to facilitate the pilgrims’ entry to the Kingdom. I would like to thank the Indonesian government for their kind assistance to the Makkah Route initiative.”

The Saudi Ministry of Interior launched its fourth Makkah Route initiative to smooth pilgrims’ Hajj journey and provide them with top-quality services. The initiative aims to ensure that all health requirements are met in the targeted countries before the Kingdom’s entry visa is issued.

It includes issuing visas, ensuring compliance with health requirements, and codifying and sorting luggage at airports in pilgrims’ home countries.  Five countries are in the initiative: Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco, and Bangladesh.

Pilgrims arriving from these countries can bypass entry procedures on their arrival in the Kingdom, go directly to the buses waiting for them, and travel to their accommodation in Makkah and Madinah. Their luggage is handled and delivered directly to them at their accommodation.

Saudi Arabia has allowed up to 1 million people, who should be under 65 and fully vaccinated against COVID-19, to join the Hajj this year, inviting pilgrims from foreign countries for the first time after two years of COVID-19 restrictions saw the annual pilgrimage limited to residents of the Kingdom.

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