Saudi Arabia Braces for Surge in Companies Offering Umrah Services

Friday prayers at al-Masjid al-Haram (SPA)
Friday prayers at al-Masjid al-Haram (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia Braces for Surge in Companies Offering Umrah Services

Friday prayers at al-Masjid al-Haram (SPA)
Friday prayers at al-Masjid al-Haram (SPA)

The upcoming Umrah season will witness an increase in the number of companies eligible to provide services for the pilgrims, said Vice Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdulfattah Mashat Dr. Abdul Fattah Mashat, adding that the new season will likely witness a rise in the number of international visitors arriving to perform the Umrah rituals.

Mashat told Asharq Al-Awsat that the first groups of Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the Prophet's Mosque will begin arriving from outside the Kingdom on the first day of the new Hijri year. He emphasized that the Saudi government has diligently worked on providing a comprehensive set of facilitations to allow Muslims from all corners of the world to easily access the Two Holy Mosques.

The Vice Minister expected a significant increase in the number of Umrah pilgrims compared to previous years, which aligns with the goals of "Vision 2030."

Mashat stressed that the increase will exceed what was recorded in previous Umrah seasons, noting that the beginning of the year will be strong through the large influx of pilgrims from outside the country.

According to the data, Mashat said a relative increase in the number of Umrah pilgrims is predicted during certain months, particularly in "Rabi al-Awwal and al-Thank, Rajab, Shaaban, and the blessed month of Ramadan. However, he also acknowledged that there will be a significant flow of pilgrims throughout the entire Umrah season.

Regarding the frequent Umrah, Mashat said it was observed during last year's season and expects it to be more frequent for several reasons, including the facilities provided by Saudi Arabia.

He recalled that Saudi Arabia devised an air network that connects various countries with Jeddah or Medina, and all international airports have been opened for pilgrims, tourists, and visitors.

The Ministry and all operating sectors are working through multiple paths to increase the number of pilgrims coming from outside Saudi Arabia.

- Improving the experience

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah adopted a methodology to enrich and improve the visitor's experience, according to Mashat, adding that the Ministry is keen to enhance the experience of pilgrims.

The Ministry and concerned authorities providing service to pilgrims sought to reduce the requirements and standards for those from abroad, facilitating visa issuance and allowing visitors to perform Umrah using any available visas.

Mashat noted that the Ministry of Hajj collaborated with a specialized advisory body that studied the global practices similar to the Umrah system in various hospitality fields.

The body developed licensing standards and procedures for specialized companies and institutions with high financial and operational efficiency, according to precise criteria that enabled them to upgrade Umrah services.

He explained that the Ministry allowed all companies and institutions that meet the criteria to apply for a license permanently to provide an equal opportunity for all, noting that many new specialized companies and institutions will be introduced to the services system.

Mashat also stressed that the Ministry is keen to ensure that pilgrims are satisfied with the services provided. It has developed many professional tools to measure the visitors' satisfaction and performance of Umrah companies and institutions and their commitment to the competent authorities' instructions.

Notably, performing Umrah has now become accessible to all individuals coming to the Kingdom with various visa types through easy procedures via the Nusuk application that issues permit for Umrah and visiting the Noble Rawdah.



Kuwait Court Drops Case Against Notorious Pentagon Hacker

Palace of Justice in Kuwait
Palace of Justice in Kuwait
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Kuwait Court Drops Case Against Notorious Pentagon Hacker

Palace of Justice in Kuwait
Palace of Justice in Kuwait

The Kuwaiti Court of Cassation upheld on Sunday the dismissal of criminal charges against a notorious Kuwaiti hacker who had infiltrated hundreds of websites around the world, including the US Department of Defense’s (Pentagon) website.
The Court of Cassation, the highest judicial authority, affirmed a previous ruling by the Court of Appeals that the 28-year-old defendant could not be prosecuted for the allegations in this case, which occurred 10 years ago.
The accused faced criminal charges related to his hacking of the US Department of Defense website, accessing sensitive weapon sites, and infiltrating 200 American websites, with the information being published in 2011.
On October 9, 2023, the Criminal Court dropped the criminal case against the hacker accused of breaking into global websites, including the Pentagon’s website.
The court’s decision to drop the charges against the hacker was based on the principle that the accused could not be tried for accusations committed over 10 years ago, as the acts were carried out from 2010 to 2012.
The charge of endangering Kuwait’s potential to sever relations by hacking the US Department of Defense website was also dismissed.
The prosecution had accused the defendant of hacking more than 200 sites, some of which contained confidential information belonging to the US.
The hacker was also accused of deceitfully appropriating money through fraud by marketing his website post-hack to attract victims to subscribe and browse the website.