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Saudi's new Hajj portal leaves many uncertain about places

Saudi Arabia's new high-tech Hajj portal throws pilgrims' lifelong dreams into disarray
3 min read
07 June, 2022
Saudi Authorities have urged those who have already booked their Hajj pilgrimages via local agents to seek refunds.
The new portal acts as a one-stop shop for pilgrims to arrange visas and accommodation [Getty]

A new official portal for Muslim pilgrims from Europe, America and Australia to register for Hajj has thrown many would-be pilgrims' plans into disarray.

Announced by the kingdom's Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on Monday, the new system requires those wishing to make the trip to submit their application for entry into a lottery-style system.

 Hajj is a pilgrimage that must be completed by all able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetimes.

"These efforts aim to facilitate the procedures and provide competitive prices for pilgrims from these countries," the ministry said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

Prior to this, those making the Islamic pilgrimage from Europe, America and Australia were able to sort out visas, flights and accommodation via local travel agencies.

Those who had booked their Hajj packages prior to the announcement on Monday will now have to request refunds.

"Pilgrims who may have Pre-Purchased or paid a deposit for Hajj 2020 or Hajj 2022 are requested to request refunds from Tour Operators / Agents however enduring *patience*," the two Holy Mosque's official Haramaininfo Twitter account posted on Monday.

The post drew angry responses from many who had already made plans.

"There's literally 24 days before I was set to fly and now this? Hajj is meant to be a special moment but all you have done is cause distress! How do I know if I will be selected alongside my mother? How will I get a refund from my tour operator???" wrote one Twitter user.

"This was a completely avoidable situation. The time needed to build the portal & operational processes it is not insignificant, this must have been known weeks if not months ago. The pilgrims have clearly not been the priority here and the knock-on impact to them and agents is huge," said another.

The new Motawif system acts as a one-stop-shop for pilgrims to book their visas and accommodation, with a selection of packages offered.

For this year's Hajj, those travelling must be under 65 years of age and fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with priority given to those who have never performed the Hajj before.