Reduced quotas for the number of visas issued to pilgrims for Umrah and Haj will remain in place for 2015, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Haj has reportedly confirmed.
The number of visas for foreign Muslims was halved and the local quota was cut by 20 percent during construction work at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Islam’s holiest site.
Saudi Arabia is spending about $20 billion renovating and extending the Grand Mosque. It says it will eventually be able to accommodate 2.2 million pilgrims at a time, as well as doubling capacity at the Mataf from 48,000 per hour to 105,000 per hour.
About 6 million people are expected to visit the site during this Umrah and Haj season.
Ministry of Haj spokesman Hatem Al Qadi said the decision to keep pilgrim numbers low would help maintain health and safety during the construction period, which is expected to be several years.
He also reiterated a plea for pilgrims to wait at least five years before again performing Haj – one of the Five Pillars of Islam that requires Muslims to visit Makkah at least once in their lives.
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