Srinagar: Kashmir-based operators have started receiving calls for Umrah bookings even as Hajis are yet to return from Saudi Arabia.
Though the first batch of pilgrims is expected to return to Kashmir tomorrow on Saturday, the Saudi Arabia government’s announcement on Wednesday that the new Umrah season will begin from Muharram 1 has brought cheers.
Jammu Kashmir Association of Hajj Umrah Companies (JKAHUC) general secretary Mohammad Younis said people in the Valley were keen to perform Umrah but most operators would start sending groups from the Rabi’ al-Awwal month of the Islamic calendar.
“In the past, there would be no Umrah during the Muharram and Safar months but this year the Umrah season will begin on Muharram 1, 1444 corresponding to July 30, 2022. People are keen to go for Umrah as they were unable to go for the pilgrimage during the Covid lockdowns in the past. While bookings have already started and we are getting a good response, our company will start taking groups to perform Umrah from Rabi’ al-Awwal month as the weather will be pleasant that time,” said Younis, who is also the owner of ‘Makkah Madina Travels’.
“However, if people are interested to go for Umrah in Muharram only in hot weather, small groups can be sent depending on the number of bookings received,” he added.
Umrah from the Valley had been suspended in March 2020 after the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. In December 2021, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia allowed licensed and accredited tour operators from six countries including India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Pakistan to issue Umrah visas and design packages accordingly.
Umrah had finally resumed from Kashmir in February earlier this year after the completion of formalities by the tour operators.
The JKAHUC general secretary said the operators were presently working out the costs of the Umrah packages and the same would cost around 20 percent lesser than before.
“Due to Covid protocols, pilgrims were supposed to get quarantined and there were formalities like conducting of RT-PCR tests. However, getting quarantined is no longer required and therefore one can expect a 20 percent reduction in the costs of packages,” he said.