Muscat: With Umrah season taking off, pilgrims from Oman have started to converge on the holy city of Makkah, Islam's holiest sanctuary.
Reports from Jeddah said that King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) has already begun receiving Umrah pilgrims from across the world. The Umrah visa system opened early this season, allowing passengers to plan their travel. A total of 10,163 Umrah visas were issued during the 2012 season and is likely to increase this year, according to officials.
Al Eman, a division of Travel Point LLC, took a group of 230 pilgrims from Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) for Umrah last week. According to Irshad Ali Khan, Regional Manager – Business Development, Travel Point LLC, "The SQU group travelled on Saudi Arabian Airlines from Muscat to the holy city of Madinah, returning from Jeddah to Muscat last week. This is the second year in a row that we have operated this group."
Rabea Al Busaidi, organising committee member of SQU, said, "Al Eman offered excellent service for the pilgrims all through the trip. All pilgrims were accommodated very close to Masjid Al Haram, both in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. The accommodation in Madinah was in the five-star Anwar Al Madinah Movenpick Hotel.
"While in Madinah, the pilgrims were put up in a new five-star property, the Swissotel. Logistics for such a large group were planned meticulously and we are happy that all our passengers had a great spiritual experience."
Irshad added, "Our Islamic Tourism Division, Al Eman, offers an opportunity to take advantage of our exclusive Sharia-friendly packages, so your religious sentiments are cared for through all your voyages. We're devoted to the care of pilgrims when they are embarking on a journey of faith."
He added, "We continuously operate packages for individuals, families, as well as large groups. Our packages are designed to suit every budget, from a pilgrim travelling by our Coach Tour to luxurious guided tours."
Irshad further noted, "We have been successfully organising Umrah groups of educational institutions and corporate houses for their employees. Large families also request group services. Al Eman also arranges 'Escorted Umrah tours' for discerning clientele. Pilgrims' needs are taken care at every step of their journey."
Irshad added, "We are also licensed agents to provide Umrah visa services and visit visa services to resident expatriates in Oman. We will also be offering items such as Ihram, umbrellas, bags and more, which are necessary during Hajj and Umrah trips. Pilgrims can visit our 'one-stop-Umrah-shop' for all their needs."
Moon Travels LLC, which claims to be the first authorised Umrah agent in Oman, has already operated eight groups by road and a number of individual pilgrims by air, beginning January 22.
Ahmed Maseehuddin, manager, Haj & Umrah, Moon Travels LLC, said, "Last year we took around 5,500 Umrah pilgrims and this year we expect this to go up to 7,000. We are delighted that this time Umrah visas were issued early for this season, as compared to last year."
He added, "Our bus package costs OMR180 without food. We offer accommodation in 4-star hotels in Makkah and four-star hotels in Madinah. For air pilgrims, we provide four and five-star hotels. We will be operating one bus every fortnight (Tuesday)."