A total of 13,000 Egyptian pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia – 9,000 of them by air and 4,000 by land – according to the head of the corporate sector at the Ministry of Tourism, Mustafa Abdul Latif.
Abdul Latif said that the Ministry of Tourism has completed all necessary preparations and arrangements for the tourist pilgrimage season.
Egypt was granted approximately 63,000 visas for the Hajj this year, 29,000 of which were distributed through tourism companies with the remaining visas falling under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Social Solidarity.
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj has cut Egypt’s pilgrimage quota by 20% since the beginning of last season, bringing the figure down to 63,000 visas compared to 79,000 in the previous season.
Abdul Latif said that the ministry’s oversight committees have begun supervising land, sea, and air arrivals and hotel reservations for pilgrims in Mecca and Medina.
He added that the Ministry of Tourism has allocated 60% of its 29,000 visas for the ‘economy’ Hajj.
The price of an economy Hajj amounts to EGP 20,000, excluding the plane ticket which ranges between EGP 4,000-6,000, according to Abdul Latif.
The Ministry of Tourism has divided the Hajj to four levels. The first level is five-stars, starting at EGP 47,000 excluding plane tickets. The cost of a four-star trip starts at EGP 37,000, while the economy trip costs approximately EGP 20,000. Completing the Hajj by land costs an average of EGP 20,500.
The ministry has stipulated that the distance between hotels and the Grand Mosque in Mecca should be no further than 200 metres for the five-star trip, 750 metres for a four-star trip, and 1,000 metres for the economy and land trips, according to Abdul Latif.
“Oversight committees have inspected 98 hotels in Mecca and 63 in Medina, and 25 hotels and buildings were rejected for failing to conform with the specifications and conditions set by the ministry,” said Abdul Latif.
He added that the ministry aims to separate the visa process and tourism companies through an electronic lottery system that will come into force three years from now.
He explained that the lottery system could reduce the cost of the visa from EGP 15,000 to EGP 1,000, eliminating visa brokers.
The Ministry decided that no more than four individuals should stay in one room in order to provide maximum comfort.
Abdul Latif believes that the Ministry of Tourism, together with tourism companies, will be able to execute pilgrimages for Egypt’s share, which is expected to increase after expansions are made to the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Abdul Latif warned companies that violate specifications set by the ministry, saying “Sanctions will be carried out against violators and may cause the company to be eliminated.”
He added that, despite the high cost of accommodation and flights, the ministry was able to reduce the cost of the pilgrimage by EGP 1,000.
The Ministry of Tourism has allocated telephone lines to communicate with delegations for tourist pilgrimages in Saudi Arabia.
The tourist pilgrimage delegation offers 24-hour services to assist pilgrims and is located in Al-Massa Hotel behind the royal palace in Mecca, as well as the Hayatt International Hotel in Medina.