410 Indonesian pilgrims arrive in Madinah via 'Makkah Route'

July 07, 2019

Hassan Cheruppa

Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH — The first group of Indonesian pilgrims under the “Makkah Route Initiative” for this year’s Haj arrived in Madinah on Sunday.

The pilgrims, 410 in number, who landed at Prince Muhammad International Airport at 1:30 p.m., were received by Brig. Gen. Badr Al-Motairi, director of Passports Department in Madinah region, Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, director of the Customs at Madinah airport, Agus Maftuh Abegibriel, Indonesian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mohamad Hery Saripudin, Indonesian consul general in Jeddah, and other officials.

The pilgrims, who were greeted with roses and gifts on arrival, appreciated the initiative as it cuts significantly the waiting time at the airport.

A number of pilgrims also praised the services being provided under the initiative, saying that this initiative aims to facilitate the services provided for pilgrims and expedite their traveling procedures.

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world, is sending the largest contingent of pilgrims for the annual pilgrimage of Haj. This year, a total of 231,000 pilgrims are expected to perform Haj after the Saudi government approved an additional quota of 10,000.

Earlier on Sunday, the Makkah Route initiative was inaugurated at Soekarno–Hatta International Airport in Jakarta in the presence of Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs Dr. Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Saudi Ambassador to Indonesia Essam Abed Al-Thaqafi, and a number of officials.

Speaking on the occasion, Kalla thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman for his support and care for Haj services, praising the implementation of the initiative for the second year in a row.

“This is a qualitative initiative that has contributed to facilitating procedures for Indonesian pilgrims, which made the Indonesian government interested in its implementation,” he said.

On his part, Saifuddin said the initiative comes to provide comfort for pilgrims while traveling from the moment they leave Jakarta for performing Haj rituals until they return safely to Indonesia.

“This initiative is one of great services being provided by the Kingdom to the Two Holy Mosques, holy sites and their visitors. Muslims around the world witness the continuous development every year in the services being offered by the Kingdom to pilgrims and Umrah performers,” he said.

Saudi Ambassador Al-Thaqafi said the implementation of the initiative in Indonesia for the second year confirms the success of cooperation between the authorities in the two countries to serve Indonesian pilgrims and facilitate their journey to the Kingdom.

The first group of 449 Haj pilgrims from Indonesia this year arrived in Madinah on Saturday from Surabaya. As many as 1,800 Indonesian pilgrims arrived in Madinah on board four flights on the first day of the operation.

Saudi Arabia last year launched the Makkah Route Initiative in Indonesia in order to facilitate the journey of pilgrims. The service offers immigration pre-clearance for the pilgrims at their respective points of embarkation.

The decision to introduce the service in its first year in Malaysia in 2017 and Indonesia in 2018 was made on the basis of the large numbers of pilgrims coming from these countries. This year, the initiative has been expanded to cover pilgrims from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Tunisia.

The government agencies in Saudi Arabia providing the services to pilgrims include the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Haj and Umrah, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, Saudi Customs, and the National Information Center.

The services include issuance of visas, customs and passport procedures, facilitating health requirements, as well as sorting luggage according to transportation and housing arrangements in Saudi Arabia.

These pre-departure services will not only ease the arrival of pilgrims in the Kingdom, but will also allow them to head directly to their accommodations in Makkah and Madinah without having to deal with time-consuming procedures at the airport.

Luggage-handling agencies at the airports transport the pilgrims' baggage directly to their accommodations.

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