After lifting the land, air and sea blockade on Qatar, residents rush to book trips to Saudi Arabia, mainly for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.
Umrah and Hajj services from Doha have resumed operations following the Al Ula declaration of January 5th.
After the blockade on Qatar in 2017, Doha accused Saudi Arabia of imposing ‘obstacles and restrictions’ on its citizens and residents, preventing them from performing the Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj pilgrimage. People in Qatar were unable to obtain visas, Doha’s officials were prevented from going to Islam’s holiest sites to facilitate the travel of pilgrims and as a result no Hajj or Umrah trips occurred over the past three and a half years.
Speaking to Doha News, Al Rawda Group for Umrah and General Transport’s owner Jassim Mohammad said that residents are still facing obstacles as the Saudi consular services are still not operational in Doha and therefore visas are yet to be issued for Qatar’s residents.
He added that his company started receiving calls and messages on their online pages from customers with booking inquiries as soon as news of the GCC reconciliation broke.
Since daily flights to Riyadh have now resumed, Al Rawda are expecting to launch their first Umrah trip by the 1st of March.
The organiser of Umrah and Hajj services at Shaheen travel agency in Doha also told Doha News that they are working on relaunching their programs after a three year halt.
Mohammad Al Jassim said that the company is working on securing necessary permits to resume Hajj and Umrah trips.
However, the procedure takes time as tour operators are required to secure hotel booking for the pilgrims in order for visas to be issued, the process is further complicated in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
He expects that people wanting to perform pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia could very well be required to take a COVID vaccine beforehand.
Many Umrah and Hajj agencies in Qatar went out of business as a direct result of the 2017 blockade on Qatar, others had to remodel their services to sell other travel products in order to stay afloat. The news that travel to Saudi Arabia can new resume is being welcomed by both the general public and those who work in the hospitality and travel sector.
Al Rawda was one of the companies that had to close after they lost hope in the borders reopening shortly after the June 5th 2017 blockade.
Due to that, “around 35 employees lost their jobs in Al Rawda alone”, Jassim Mohammad told Doha News in an interview.
For more details on travels and requirements for prospective pilgrims, Qatar’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah says it will be posting the latest updates on its website.