ISLAMABAD - Pakistan topped the list of countries whose citizens went to Saudi Arabia for the Umrah pilgrimage since the season started on August 31, 2019.

According to official statistics by the Kingdom, the index showed that 495,270 Pakistanis performed their Umrah during the period, followed by 443,879 Indonesians and 262,887 Indians.  Other countries on the list included Malaysia, Egypt, Algeria, Turkey, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Ministry Spokesman Imran Siddiqui talking to Arab News said that the Saudi Arabian government had always won the hearts of the Pakistani pilgrims through exceptional hospitality.

“This number of 495,270 was achieved in four months, showing the association and passionate love of our people with the two holy mosques,” he said.

“Pakistan was the number one country with more than 1.7 million people performing Umrah last year. The trend has continued this year as well, and more people are likely to visit the Kingdom to undertake this spiritual journey in the coming months, especially during Ramazan.”

The spokesperson said that one of the reasons behind the growing number of pilgrims from Pakistan was the strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries, adding, that Prime Minister Imran Khan and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had brought the two States closer together.

“The Saudi Arabian Crown Prince has given Pakistani pilgrims special facilities, such as the Makkah Route, and such changes have contributed to the increased number of pilgrims,” he said, adding, that the Saudis had also digitised everything like visa for Umrah.

“This has reduced the cases of frauds committed by travel agents, especially when it comes to issues like accommodation.

Now everything is electronic and they have to show hotel accommodation for visa. The changes have been made under Vision 2030, making things easier for the pilgrims,” Siddiqui said. The Vision 2030 reforms plan aims to attract more than 30 million Umrah pilgrims and provide them excellent services.

Last year, the Saudi Arabian Haj and Umrah Ministry launched a weekly indicator that helps the authorities track the number of pilgrims visiting the Kingdom to enrich their spiritual experience further.