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Jordanian umrah pilgrim numbers ‘plummet by 70% since last year’

By Ahmed Bani Mustafa - Jun 02,2017 - Last updated at Jun 02,2017

The number of Jordanians performing umrah (the lesser Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) during this year’s Ramadan witnessed a sharp drop, according to the Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents (Photo by Ahmed Bani Mustafa)

AMMAN — The number of Jordanians performing umrah (the lesser Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) during this year’s Ramadan dropped by 70 per cent compared to last year, the Jordan Society of Tourism and Travel Agents (JSTA) said on Thursday.

Feisal Mirzi, head of JSTA’s religious committee, told The Jordan Times that the society expects between 15,000 to 20,000 Jordanian pilgrims to perform umrah this Ramadan, compared to around 60,000 in 2016.

Mirzi attributed the drop to final school examinations that will continue to be held during Ramadan, preventing most parents from leaving their children. He also cited the rise in the price of a second visa this year, with the first visa costing JD40 and a charge of JD380 for a second visa. 

In 2016, around 450,000 Jordanians performed the lesser pilgrimage, the official said, adding that they expect a 30 per cent drop in 2017.

The committee’s head called on the ministries of awqaf and education to increase coordination in order to avoid affecting the flow of pilgrims during the holy month.

He expressed the JSTA’s keenness to boost cooperation with the Awqaf Ministry, in light of His Majesty King Abdullah’s directives to enhance partnership between the public and private sectors.

Mirzi warned citizens against dealing with mediators when organising their umrah trips, instead urging them to use only licensed travel agencies to ensure safety and saving money and time.

Um Tamim, a mother of two, said that she postponed umrah until next January due to school exams.

Several citizens interviewed by The Jordan Times said that they were not planning to perform umrah as they did it earlier in the year and they would now have to pay JD380 for a second visa.

For Hajj (the greater Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca), Mirzi said that the number of pilgrims is usually decided by the Saudi Arabian authorities, with 1,000 pilgrims permitted for each one million of a country’s population, determining Jordan’s quota at around 8, 000 pilgrims last year.

Khaled Khatib, an umrah travel operator, said that the main reason behind the drop in numbers is due to the price of visas and hotels during the holy month.

 

“We buy the visa through Saudi Arabian agents, who decide on the price of visas throughout the year”, Khatib said, adding that, during Ramadan, the visa costs JD150, compared to JD70 maximum in other months. 

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