Srinagar: Amid the Omicron threat, a group of 47 pilgrims from Kashmir valley have reached Saudi Arabia and are presently performing Umrah.
Even as those aspiring to perform Umrah had postponed their plans due to the Omicron threat, Kashmiri pilgrims that have reached Medina are enjoying their stay in Saudi Arabia.
The pilgrims are also inviting other Kashmiris to perform Umrah as the pilgrimage is being held under Covid safety protocols.
‘Just fill the form and come’
In a video message from Al Rasheed Hotel in Medina, a pilgrim from Kashmir, Mohammad Amin Malik said Umrah was being performed smoothly. He said the intending pilgrims should ‘fill the form’ and come to perform Umrah.
“We reached safely and faced no problem during the journey. My message to intending pilgrims is to fill the form and come here. There is no problem here. However, we have to wear masks and adhere to Covid safety protocols,” he said.
‘People would tell me not to go for Umrah’
Another pilgrim, Bashir Ahmad said he was glad that he came for Umrah as many people in Kashmir had advised him to wait for a couple of years.
“Basically, I am from Jammu but residing in Kashmir. After over two years of wait, we have been able to come here for Umrah. We are a batch of 47 pilgrims and we have had an amazing experience so far……people would tell me there are lots of difficulties and do not go for Umrah for the next year or two. But, after I came here I found out these are just rumors. If there are any Covid related restrictions, these are for our safety only,” he said in another video message.
‘Kashmir pilgrims keen to perform Umrah after initial scare’
Jammu Kashmir Association of Hajj Umrah Companies (JKAHUC) general secretary Mohammad Younis said after the arrival of the first batch in Saudi Arabia, people in Kashmir were keen to perform Umrah yet again.
“Due to the Omicron threat, people were reluctant to perform Umrah initially. However, now that the first batch of pilgrims has reached Saudi, more people now want to perform Umrah. Another batch has already left Srinagar and more are leaving in the coming days. We are hopeful that people in large numbers will leave to perform Umrah once the Covid threat subsides,” the JKAHUC secretary told The Kashmir Monitor.
‘Umrah made possible due to India-Saudi bilateral bubble’
A JKAHUC statement said the Umrah services from Kashmir had been made possible due to the ‘bilateral bubble’ between India and Saudi Arabia.
“Although the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced the opening of Umrah pilgrimage from our country as early as in December 2021, in absence of normal flights for Jeddah the pilgrims could not travel to Saudi Arabia. The bilateral Bubble Agreement between India and Saudi Arabia for flights came into effect on January 4, 2022, and flights for Jeddah started operating. Because of the swift spread of the Omicron, there was a lot of hesitation on the part of Aspiring Pilgrims and the Group Operators to start the Holy Pilgrimage. JKAHUC rose to the occasion and regularly made available necessary information about the real situation about Umrah Pilgrimage and the corona protocol to the public through press and social media,” the statement said.
Umrah from Kashmir resumed after two years
“As a result of untiring efforts of the JKAHUC Team, the fear and hesitation diminished and it is very pleasing to announce that the first Group from J&K consisting of 47 Pilgrims has left and reached Madina Al Munawarrah on 25th January 2022 for Ziyarah and Umrah,” it added.
Umrah from the Valley had been suspended in March 2020 after the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic.