The arrival of the first group of Hajj 2023 pilgrims from Bangladesh in Jeddah was a significant moment as it marked the start of a full-capacity Hajj season after two years of limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pilgrims arrived at the seasonal Hajj terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport through the dedicated Makkah Route initiative.
Upon their arrival, the Bangladeshi pilgrims received a warm welcome from border and immigration officials, as well as employees from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Ministry of Health. They were greeted with flowers, gifts, and heartfelt greetings. Chants of “Hajj Mubarak” (we wish you a blessed Hajj) and “Hajj Mabroor” (we wish you a Hajj refrained from sin) filled the air. Ayed Al-Gwinm, the deputy minister for Hajj affairs at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, bid them farewell at the airport.
Mohammad Javed Patwary, the Bangladeshi ambassador and permanent representative to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, was also present to extend his wishes for a safe journey to the holy sites.
Al-Gwinm expressed his satisfaction with the seamless coordination among government entities involved in the Makkah Route initiative, from visa preparations to customs arrangements in the pilgrims’ home countries. The aim was to provide a smooth and hassle-free journey for the pilgrims from their home airports in their respective countries to their places of residence in the Kingdom.
Patwary expressed his gratitude to the Saudi government for their efforts in serving all the pilgrims. The arrival of the first batch of pilgrims consisted of four flights from Bangladesh to Jeddah, with a total of 419 pilgrims on each flight.
In addition to the Bangladeshi pilgrims, a flight from Islamabad International Airport in Pakistan arrived at Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah, and another flight carrying Malaysian pilgrims also landed in Madinah. The pilgrims from both countries were warmly received by officials from the passport department and the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
One of the Bangladeshi pilgrims, Shamsuldeen Mullah, expressed his gratitude to the Saudi government for making the trip easy. Another pilgrim, Mufeed Alrahman, shared his positive experience, noting that compared to his previous Hajj 28 years ago, everything went smoothly and he appreciated the improvements made.
Upon arrival, the pilgrims had their passports checked once again before boarding buses that would transport them to their hotels in Makkah. The hotels would provide services and information in the pilgrims’ native languages.
The Makkah Route initiative is part of Saudi Arabia’s Guests of God Service Program, which was launched by King Salman in 2019. The program aims to provide pilgrims visiting the holy sites with the best possible services to facilitate their Hajj rituals. The initiative involves collaboration between various government entities, including the Health Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Authority of Civil Aviation, the Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority, the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence, the Guests of God Service Program, Saudi Passports, and the digital security firm Elm Co.
The initiative encompasses visa issuance, ensuring compliance with health requirements, and organising and categorising luggage at airports in the pilgrims’ home countries. Seven countries, namely Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Morocco, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Cote d’Ivoire, are part of this initiative.
Daily arrivals of multiple flights between Jeddah and Madinah airports will continue until June 4, as the Hajj season progresses.