KAIA receives first Malaysian pilgrims via 'Makkah Road'


Okaz/Saudi Gazette

— Saudi and Malaysian officials received the first group of 482 pilgrims from Malaysia to arrive at King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) in Jeddah under the "Makkah Road" initiative on Saturday. The pilgrims completed all entry procedures to Saudi Arabia right at their embarkation points back home.

Under the Makkah Road initiative, which was successfully experimented for the first time last year, pilgrims from Malaysia and Indonesia will complete their passport procedures including fingerprinting at Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta airports.

The arriving Malaysian pilgrims were received by Director General of Passports (Jawazat) Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Yahya, Consul General of Malaysia in Jeddah Mohammed Ali Bin Salamat, Director General of King Abdulaziz International Airport Essam Fouad and other senior officials.

Al-Yahya said officials from the Jawazat, the Data Center of the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Haj and Umrah, the Ministry of Health, the Customs Department and the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) were dispatched to Malaysia and Indonesia to complete the entry procedures for the pilgrims from these two countries.

"The pilgrims will not spend any time at the airport on arrival at Jeddah or Madinah. They will immediately be transported to their places of accommodation in the two holy cities," he said.

He said the Makkah Road initiative was launched within an ambitious plan to upgrade the services being extended to the guests of God.

According to Al-Yahya, the initiative applies to all pilgrims coming from Malaysia and a number of Indonesian pilgrims.

With the number of pilgrims growing each year, the Saudi government has made serious efforts to streamline the process under its "smart Haj" initiative.

The Makkah Road Initiative was meant to fast-track travel procedures for pilgrims to Saudi Arabia through unified electronic gateways. The services provided under the initiative include issuing visas, customs and passport procedures, facilitating health requirements, baggage management, and housing arrangements in Makkah.

The initiative also involves checking off the pilgrims’ entry visas into the Kingdom at the embarkation points. Travel arrangements, including health requirements, will be confirmed electronically.

The pilgrims will check out at the arrival lounge like passengers on domestic flights and their luggage will be sorted out and sent to their places of residence by the Ministry of Haj.

Childcare for pilgrims

The Ministry of Haj and Umrah has established a linkage on its e-portal for domestic pilgrims to register their children in the seasonal kindergartens and nurseries that it has set up in Makkah in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the coordination council of domestic Haj companies.

Mohammed Saad Al-Qurashi, in charge of the program at the coordination council, said the initiative was being implemented for the second year in a row after it had proved to be very successful last year.

He said the children would be received at Kudai, on the outskirts of Makkah on Dhul Hijja 7 (Aug. 18) and returned to their families on Dhul Hijja 13 (Aug. 24).

Al-Qurashi said the fee for the nurses and kindergartens is SR2,500 to be paid electronically via the Sadad payment system.

Meanwhile, the Tuwafa establishment for the pilgrims from Turkey, Europe, America and Australia has designated 130 employees to provide field services to the pilgrims including healthcare and guidance.

Abdulaziz Al-Sirouji, board member, said there are well-equipped ambulances manned by well-trained paramedics to transport sick pilgrims to hospitals and to follow up them closely there.

He said the establishment will bring back the lost pilgrims to their places of accommodation in Makkah and Madinah and also to their tents in the holy sites.

Sirouji revealed that the establishment has initiated a program to group the pilgrims to the Jamarat at the time of their choice.

Majed Sibgha, a board member, said their pilgrims registered options for the grouping time about four months ago in collaboration with the Ministry of Haj and Umrah.

He said the 12-stage grouping of pilgrims begins at the time of arrival at the airport and continues until the end of the pilgrimage.

The Tawafa Establishment for the pilgrims from Arab countries said it has deployed 102 guides to receive the pilgrims at the Grand Mosque.

It has also established 139 field offices for serving the pilgrims.