Operators are reeling in umrah pilgrims intending to make the pilgrimage to the holy Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the month of Ramadan, by offering packages for a 30 day stay. However, the South African Travel and Haj Operators Association (Sathoa) says the Saudi Hajj Ministry has only allocated 15 days for South African travellers during the month of Ramadan.
With just under fifty days left until Ramadan begins, hundreds of local mu’tamireen are determined to use this time to attain the most rewards for their spiritual efforts during the month of observing fast.
Speaking to VOC News, Sathoa chairperson, Sedick Steenkamp said South African mu’tamireen are usually more likely to arrange for a stay in the holy kingdom until Eid-ul-Fitr, the full duration of Ramadan. But since last year, the Ministry has only allowed for 15 days as construction in Makkah continues.
According to Steenkamp, everything centres around the construction in the Haram area and the restrictions by the Saudi Ministry is for the convenience and safety of mu’tamireen.
“At this stage, we have been informed by our operators in Saudi that the validity for the umrah visa during the Ramadan season will be fifteen days only. In that respect we are asking our mu’tamireen who are going to perform umrah in the month of Ramadan to be careful with the type of umrah packages they will be purchasing from local operators,” Steenkamp warned.
The South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) president Shaheen Essop confirmed this.
“From my discussions with the travel operators, yes that is so,” he said.
Sathoa’s advisory comes in light of recent advertisements by local operators, claiming to have a twenty or thirty day stay in the kingdom for the Ramadan season. Steenkamp urged local mu’tamireen to be on the look out and do the necessary research before handing over any money.
“I am pleading to people to have a look at the operators that they book with. Umrah packages can only be sold by accredited umrah operators.
Accredited umrah operators can be found on the Saudi Hajj Ministry website. They can also contact us to find out more about the operators attached to Sathoa. At Sathoa, we receive all the current rules and regulations as well as updated information which we share with our colleagues. So, people should found out whether these operators offering thirty day umrah packages are in fact accredited,” Steenkamp continued. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)