Photo: Muslims pray at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem
JEDDAH — Hectic preparations are under way at King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah to welcome Haj pilgrims as this year's pilgrimage season starts on Saturday.
The airport is expected to receive up to 2 million additional passengers during the season.
Representatives of different government departments met at the airport to discuss the operational plan for the Haj season.
Director General of KAIA Ismael Fuad said they were committed to make maximum efforts to make the season successful and provide the best services to the pilgrims.
This year's operational plan will be implemented under the supervision of the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) in cooperation with different government and private agencies.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Haj and Umrah is giving final shape for arrangements for the pilgrims' accommodation in two holy cities. Officials from ministry have been holding meetings with foreign Haj missions to finalize the last-minute preparations as Haj pilgrims are set to arrive in less than a week.
Marwan Al-Sulaimani, the ministry’s director general in Jeddah, is conducting separate meetings with officials of countries that send significant number of pilgrims, such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Egypt.
“The Kingdom is keen on implementing e-system for Haj covering all aspects from their arrival of the pilgrims until their departure,” said Sulaimani said in a statement on Monday.
“The Kingdom wants to expand the electronic procedure of Haj visas as it was doing with selected countries and also distinguish pilgrims with special identification for certain categories to help them and make their stay in the Kingdom comfortable,” he added.
The ministry also advised foreign Haj missions to enhance the orientation and awareness programs for pilgrims regarding religious aspects, code of conduct, environment, safety and health, Sulaimani said.
The director said his ministry has held meetings with Haj delegations of over 50 countries.
The first flights carrying Haj pilgrims from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and other countries are scheduled to arrive at Prince Muhammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah as well as King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on Saturday July 14.
Pakistani diplomat Arshad Muneer said the first batch of pilgrims from his country would arrive in Madinah on Saturday. He said another pilgrim flight would land at Jeddah airport the same day. Pakistan will send a total of 184,210 pilgrims for this year's Haj.
The first group from a total of 175,025 Indian pilgrims will arrive in Madinah from New Delhi on Saturday, according to Shahid Alam, India's consul for Haj. He said 128,702 pilgrims would come through the government’s Central Haj Committee and the rest of 46,323 through private operators. He said the first flight of Indian pilgrims would arrive in Jeddah on July 29 from Chennai.
The first Haj flight from Bangladesh will also arrive at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on Saturday.
Bangladesh Consul for Haj Maqsud Rahman said a total of 127,198 pilgrims from Bangladesh would perform Haj this year. Of them, 7,198 will come under the government management and 120,000 through private operators.
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