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London event explores revolution in British Umrah pilgrim’s experience in Saudi Arabia
LONDON: An event to optimize the experiences of British pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah and introduce them to the Kingdom’s cultural and heritage sites will take place on Tuesday.
Hosted by the Council of British Hajjis in London, the event is the first of its kind since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and will also reconnect UK companies in the Umrah travel industry that have been hit hard by the travel restrictions and downsizing of pilgrimages.
Umrah + Connect will allow companies to explore how they can extend their current pilgrimage packages to include visits to cultural events and heritage sites that pilgrims would not generally have thought of or have had access to before.
In the past, British Muslims traveled to Mecca, where they made a pilgrimage, and then went to Medina, where they prayed at the Prophet’s Mosque.
Nearby religious sites such as Mount Uhud, where the Battle of Uhud took place, and Jannat-ul-Baqi, the cemetery where many of the Prophet’s companions and family are buried, are also said to be on the route. , but pilgrims would generally not visit other more remote areas or towns.
However, that has changed since the Kingdom opened its doors to tourists in September 2019 with the launch of its tourist visa.
British pilgrims can now also trace the Hegira route themselves. The route is the one the Prophet took when he migrated from Mecca to Medina with his friend and confidant Abu Bakr, and the event marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.
Pilgrims can also visit AlUla, home to the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hegra, and witness motorsport events such as the Dakar Rally and the upcoming 2021 Saudi Grand Prix.
“This is an opportunity to bring the industry together and now is the perfect time because Umrah has only recently opened up to foreign pilgrims,” said Council of British Hajjis CEO Rashid Mogradia.
Saudi Arabia began welcoming foreign pilgrims in August after certain COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in the Kingdom.
British Muslims are delighted to be able to visit the Two Holy Mosques again, especially after the emotional and physical toll the pandemic has taken on people.
“There are now a lot of British pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah and it is important for the industry to reconnect and come up with new offerings,” Mogradia said.
“After COVID-19, there is going to be a new set of standards. Many companies have gone bankrupt and the ones that survived cannot survive with the traditional methods of doing business and just selling Hajj and Umrah packages, ”explained the CEO.
“The tourist visa has made traveling to Saudi Arabia easier and to some extent eliminates the role of travel agencies, so they are now looking for ways to become competitive and innovative in order to survive.
“These companies are very good at providing Hajj and Umrah services and they know how the system works. They are now adding value and offering their customers something different, ”added Mogradia.
Sponsors for the Umrah + Connect event include national company Saudia, Makkah Clock Royal Tower, Makarem hotel chain, destination management companies Discover Saudi, Tetrapylon, Deira Tours and Al Taif for Umrah Services Company.
Hajj-approved online travel agencies – zamzam.com, Hulool Umrah, ZOWAR and UK travel agency Masterfare – are also sponsors.