Cultural Tourism Association Treasurer Ehab Abdel Aal said he expects the 2021 Umrah season to start in January.
The new season will be limited to the three months of Rajab, Shaaban and Ramadan, ensuring that the number of Umrah pilgrims will decrease significantly compared to previous years.
Abdel Aal attributed the shortened season and decline in pilgrim numbers to the expected second wave of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which is expected to occur later in 2020.
Muhammad Saleh Benten, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Hajj and Umrah, announced on Monday that Saudi Arabia will shortly allow the gradual return of pilgrims looking to perform the Umrah.
The minister, speaking during the second virtual forum to enrich the pilgrim experience, said that the step will take into account the necessary health precautions relating to the coronavirus pandemic. He indicated that the precautions will take place through technical solutions that enable companies and institutions to develop their services and market them locally and internationally.
Alaa El Ghamri, former Board of Directors member at the Chamber of Tourism Companies, said that Saudi Arabia also announced that the 2021 Umrah season will be open to pilgrims residing inside the country.
Their participation will be decided based on an application that will reserve the Umrah programmes and determine the dates during which the pilgrims will undertake the different aspects of the pilgrimage.
The Saudi authorities, however, have yet to set a specific date for the start of the 2021 Umrah season for pilgrims outside the country.
El Ghamri added that the start of the Umrah season will not start until a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus is found.
He expects that if no treatment or vaccine is found for the virus during the current period, then the season for 2021 will be held in the same symbolic manner as the 2020 Hajj. Each country will be granted only a few thousand visas during the season.
El Ghamri added that, should Saudi Arabia decide to restart the season, Egyptian companies are ready to organise Umrah programmes whilst undertaking all precautionary measures. These will ensure that no Egyptian pilgrims will face the risk of infection whilst undertaking the pilgrimage.