Saudis and Iraqis hope that al-Jadidah Arar crossing on Saudi Arabia's border with Iraq, which had been closed for more than 27 years, would become a vital transportation route while a bright future in relations seems to be shaping.
Saudi Arabia’s Chargé D’affaires in Baghdad Abdulaziz al-Shammari stressed that the opening of Jadidah Arar border crossing after all these years sends a great message to the peoples of the two countries that they need to support each other and unite.
“We are neighbors, and there is a great history, Arabism and blood between us. The next stage will be special in the history of the two countries’ relations,” Shammari said.
Asharq Al-Awsat has toured the area and noticed the great efforts exerted by all Saudi government agencies (such as border guards, passport control, the customs and the Ministry of Health), especially in welcoming Iraqi pilgrims through the crossing.
Jadidah Arar receives daily between 48 and 50 buses, carrying around 1,200 Iraqi pilgrims, according to officials in the Saudi General Directorate of Passports who also confirmed that these buses first pass through an inspection to check the pilgrims’ visas.
The procedure takes around two minutes for every bus before heading to the main office to complete the rest of the procedures, said one of the directorate’s employees.
Moreover, Saudi authorities have established a center for medical services at the crossing to serve Iraqi pilgrims and a hospital with a capacity of 50 beds with a medical staff, and developed equipment to receive emergency cases. Pilgrims are also given vaccines for fever and some chronic diseases, and many medical awareness publications are distributed to them.
Notably, many Iraqi pilgrims have benefited from these medical services, especially the elderly who suffer from chronic diseases and receive free medications.
Iraqi pilgrim Idriss Mohammed, 55, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudis have “provided us with everything we need; air-conditioned buildings, appliances, medicines and even food. We are brothers and our blood is one, and they are indeed Custodians of the two Holy Mosques.”
After the pilgrims finish the procedures of passports and customs control, buses go to the Ministry of Hajj, the last point before entering the city of Arar, where they are received and provided with ready meals prepared especially for them in air-conditioned tents with the help of volunteering Saudi scouts.
According to Iraqi Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Rushdi Al-Ani, Jadidah Arar border crossing will operate permanently from the two sides after this year’s Hajj season.
“The political decision has been taken regarding the borders, and the procedural and technical arrangements regarding the infrastructure and security issues will be handled soon. Jadidah Arar crossing will be opened after the end of the Hajj season,” the Iraqi ambassador confirmed.