More Omanis get to perform Haj this year

Number of pilgrims was reduced in the past four years due to expansion work on the Grand Mosque

Muscat: Haj authorities in Saudi Arabia have increased the Omani Haj pilgrim quota to 14,000 up from 11,200.

During the past four years, authorities reduced the number of pilgrims while it worked to complete construction work to expand the capacity of the Makkah Grand Mosque.

The number of local pilgrims was cut by 50 per cent — foreign pilgrims by 20 per cent. Out of the 14,000 pilgrims, 12,664 spots are allocated for Omanis and 600 spots are allocated for expatriates living in Oman. Remaining spots are allocated for Omani diplomats and military personnel. An e-registration system for those interested to perform Hajj from for this year haj season will open for two weeks from April 10.

Those interested in performing haj can apply through the e-registration system which opens for two weeks starting April 10.

The system will allow applicants to choose from a selection of licenced haj operator companies.

The introduction of the e-registration system last year has streamlined the distribution of haj permits and curbed instances of fake haj tour operators swindling customers.

In 2015, about 753 pilgrims paid more than 900,000 riyals (Dh8,590,016) to eleven Haj operators only to find out later that they had been provided with fake Haj permits.

The fake Haj operators were jailed and fined.

All applicants will have to submit certified vaccination reports.

Women applicants must be accompanied by a male guardian called a ‘mahram’, as per Saudi custom.

Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims, which must be carried out at least once in a lifetime by every adult Muslim who is physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey.