Mohd Amir khan
Srinagar: Umrah is finally resuming from the Kashmir valley after over 20 long months and pilgrims will be able to embark on the holy pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia from next month.
Bookings from the Valley have started after Saudi Arabia announced that it will allow direct entry from six countries including India, Indonesia, Egypt, and Pakistan from December
Though tour operators have started bookings, they are working out the Umrah packages that will see an increase due to the Covid safety protocols.
“We are working out the packages right now and we are also urging the authorities to have direct flights from here. The packages will be revealed once we get clarifications from Saudi regarding the programme and accommodation and transportation of pilgrims. For example, we had a package with accommodation of four persons in a room. Similarly,….say 50 pilgrims would board a bus during their stay in Saudi Arabia. Now, if we are told that only two persons will be allowed in a room instead of four and if only 25 will be allowed to board the bus instead of 50, there will be an increase in packages accordingly. And there is a five-day quarantine period,” Jammu Kashmir Association of Hajj Umrah Companies (JKAHUC) general secretary Mohammad Younis told The Kashmir Monitor.
Umrah from the Valley had been suspended from Kashmir in March last year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Pertinently, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia directive on allowing pilgrims from India will come into force from 01:00 am on Wednesday, December 1, 2021.
The JKAHUC general secretary, however, warned the public against fraudulent tour operators.
“The Government of India also has officially eased travel restrictions for commercial tourism and commercial flights are allowed to operate from 15th December 2021. The travel ban has been lifted after two years as in March 2020, the entire travel ecosystem was stopped by the authorities due to the Coronavirus pandemic. As per the directives received from Ministries of both countries, there will be standard SOPs to follow like 5-day institutional quarantine upon reaching Saudi Arabia. Until and unless standard SOPs are released, we want people to be vigilant and not fall for any fake packages. Umrah season is expected to start soon and we are happy to see the situation. (KM)