Ali Bin Gharsan
MAKKAH – The Haj Ministry has asked Saudis and expatriates wishing to perform low-cost Haj this year to register their names at its website, which has been created specially for this purpose.
The ministry said it would direct the intending domestic pilgrims to the officially accredited Haj service companies which are most suitable for them.
Abdul Rahman Al-Nifaie, the ministry’s assistant undersecretary, told Okaz/Saudi Gazette that the procedure is aimed at protecting domestic pilgrims from fake companies.
He expects more than 41,000 pilgrims to benefit from the low-cost Haj this year, compared to about 17,000 last year.
After registration, every pilgrim will be given a secret number which will be automatically conveyed to the Haj service provider.
The pilgrims will no longer have to visit the companies themselves as was the case in the past. The ministry will choose the suitable companies for them this year, Al-Nifaie said.
He said the ministry has approved 53 companies providing Haj services at reduced rates out of 116 which applied for accreditation. “The winning companies were electronically chosen according to the grades which were given to them for their services during the previous Haj season,” he added.
Al-Nifaie said the ministry has allotted the locations for tents in the Holy Sites for a total 204 local Haj firms, including the 53 companies which are offering low-cost Haj.
He said the Haj companies will be electronically supervised to ensure the rights of the pilgrims and prevent cheating on the prices or services.
“The close supervision will prompt the companies to provide quality services to the Guests of Allah,” Al-Nifaie added.
He said all the companies providing Haj services at reduced rates will be linked through a special computer program.
The success of last year’s “low-cost Haj” project has encouraged the Ministry of Haj to expand the project in the future.
The “low-cost Haj” project seeks to provide domestic pilgrims with suitable Haj services at reasonable costs to combat the spiraling costs charged by Haj operators.
The Ministry of Haj has allowed local Haj companies to begin registering domestic pilgrims who wish to perform Haj this year.
The head of domestic pilgrims’ affairs at the ministry, Fayez Al-Barakati, said the ministry has allocated several areas for domestic Haj operators in Mina according to each company’s quota.
He pointed out that while local Haj companies are being allowed to register domestic Haj pilgrims, they cannot enter into contracts yet or collect fees.
Al-Barakati explained that the ministry is coordinating with the Ministry of Interior to activate an electronic system that allows for early registration for Hajis, something which typically starts Dhul Qaadah of each year.
An intending domestic pilgrim can identify the companies and establishments licensed to serve them either through the Ministry of Haj portal or the toll free number 8002444480 or the directory issued by the ministry, which includes the names of the licensed companies and their offices at the Holy Sites.