Haj Ministry studies canceling Mahram condition for All women.

The Ministry of Haj and Umrah is considering the cancelation of the condition of Mahram (male guardian) for women of all age groups

The Ministry of Haj and Umrah is considering the cancelation of the condition of Mahram (male guardian) for women of all age groups as a pre-requisite for granting them Umrah visa, Makkah daily reported on Saturday.

Marwan Shaaban, chairman of the Haj and Umrah committee at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), said this was agreed upon during a meeting he held with Minister of Haj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Benten.

Deputy Minister Abdul Fattah Mashshat, investors in the Haj and Umrah sectors, hoteliers and many other concerned officials attended the meeting, which discussed the difficulties facing the sector and the future of the Umrah visas vis-a-vis the electronic tourist visas.

Shaaban said during the meeting the minister agreed to study the cancelation of the condition of Mahram for women of all ages in order to issue them with Umrah visas.

Women are currently required to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimages with a mahram (male guardian), or be met by him on arrival in the Kingdom, although women over the age of 45 may travel without a mahram if they are in an organized tour group.

If women travel with a group and without a mahram they must submit a notarised letter of no objection from someone who could be considered their mahram, authorizing travel for Hajj or Umrah with that group.

Benten, on his part, asked the Haj and Umrah companies to exert more efforts for the comfort of the pilgrims and urged them to contribute effectively for the implementation of the Vision 2030.

Umrah firms have raised their concerns about the impact of regulations, saying they are losing out and warning around 200 companies will be leaving the market if authorities do not step in.

Marwan Abbas Shaban, head of the National Committee for Hajj and Umrah, said each Umrah company was obliged to have two branches, employ 20 staff and spend at least SR1 million ($266,666) annually even if it did not receive a single pilgrim. The majority of companies operating in this sector were small and could not bear such costs, he added.

“We always seek officials to interact with us and we call on higher authorities to consider our demands,” he told Arab News.

Shaban said there were about 750 Umrah and Hajj companies with licenses, but only about 500 of these were in the market and they were only running at 1 percent of their capacity.

The ministry updates also include giving pilgrims greater flexibility on transport options, Mashat added, and can be accessed on a portal that allows Muslims around the world to apply for an Umrah package digitally.

The Maqam portal is an online platform, designed so that Muslims from around the world can apply for an Umrah package digitally.

Almost 1.1 million people used Maqam in its trial phase last year, allowing them to choose between over 30 companies providing travel, accommodation and other necessities for trips to Makkah and Madinah.