A Saudi ban on foreigners entering the Kingdom for performing Umrah in private vehicles has hit a number of aspiring pilgrims in Qatar.
People travelling by road to Saudi Arabia for Umrah are now required to go with an authorised tour operator (Muqawil) in their buses, reports The Peninsula, siting industry sources.
Over the past few days, several expatriates who left for Umrah in their cars without knowing about the new rule were turned away at the Abu Samra border.
The Umrah season has started in Saudi Arabia and will continue until the end of Ramadan, which falls in summer. Many people, especially expatriates in Qatar and other GCC countries, preferred to go for the pilgrimage in private cars, due to lower expenses and the convenience it offers while travelling with families.
Many pilgrims also take the opportunity to visit friends and relatives staying elsewhere in Saudi Arabia, which will not be possible with the new rule.
The new decision will apparently lead to a surge in bookings with the authorised tour operators and a possible increase in the tariffs, say industry sources. Most tour operators conducting Umrah trips by road charge QR900 per person including accommodation and transport, but this may go up with an expected increase in demand.