TRAVELOGUE: Saudi reforms on Hajj services – my Hajj conference Story Part (I)

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From Ibrahim Muhammed in Saudi Arabia

For those who doubt the commitment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to host about 30 million Hajj and Umrah pilgrims, pls embark on trip to the Kingdom for Umrah and make sure you Travel through a reputable tour operator – your experience will convince you.

The Saudi Arabian government has set a target of 30 million Hajj and Umrah pilgrims per year as part of its Vision 2030 programme.

The kingdom is leaving no stone unturned to actualise this dream. Hajj and Umrah participating countries need to brace up and quickly adjust to the dynamics of the new Hajj and Umrah policies.

I began my journey on a tripartite trip on the 7th of January when I drove to Malam Aminu Kano International Airport Kano armed with Max Air Ticket and necessary Umrah Visa. Prior to this, IHR Executive committee has made all necessary arrangements through a Kano based Private Tour Operator for my trip to the Kingdom solely to monitor Nigeria’s preparations for Hajj 2024 and also attend the Hajj and Umrah conference, attend Makkah Halal Market exhibition and use the opportunity to perform Umrah.

I arrived at Kano Airport around 5:15pm and headed straight to the international terminal. HAJJ REPORTERS’s correspondent in Kano, Mustapha Hodi came along to say goodbye and ensure the safety of my vehicle.

The efficiency of the new Saudi Arabian Umrah agents began to manifest immediately I checked into the waiting hall at Aminu Kano International Airport in Kano. A strange Saudi number called my two lines simultaneously at exactly 7:45pm. I missed the two calls and the person went ahead to send a WhatsApp messages.

“My name is Ahmed Attia, the person who you will meet at the airport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As soon as you arrive at the airport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, contact this mobile number or the mobile number that will be sent to you. It will be the driver’s number.”

“A hotel has been booked for you. The name of the hotel is Jawharat Al Bustan. The hotel’s website will be sent to you”.
Such is the new vigor deployed by Saudi based Hajj and Umrah agents.

It will be recalled that Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj and Umrah recently banned about 80 Hajj and Umrah service agents for rendering below the bar services and it seems that, that single action has spurred others to action.

I immediately returned the call and the agent promised to pick me at the airport and give me the address and room number of my hotel in Jeddah. We landed at King Abdul Aziz International Airport at around 4:56am local time and proceeded straight to arrival screening terminal B. Within 30 minutes, I was out of the screening area and I located a Masjid to say my prayers.

Once again, the driver who has been stationed to pick me called and asked me of my location. As soon as I sent him my location, he came to pick my luggage’s and off we drove to my hotel located at Hai Al Rawdah Sari Street close to Al Jarir book store in Jeddah

I arrived Saudi Arabia on the 8th day of January- the day scheduled for the opening of Hajj and Umrah service conference holding at the Superdome in Jeddah.
Tired and a little hungry, I located a restaurant adjacent Jarir Book store. It cost me 50 Saudi Arabia Riyals to have a plate of rice and two piece of chicken parts in Jeddah. Ladies and gentlemen, that is an equivalent of N17,000 – an amount that can sustain my family for a week despite the inflation in Nigeria. More on that latter
I order for Uber Taxi to take me to superdome and we arrived the conference few munites before the official opening ceremony.
The theme of the conference is “Passage to Nusuk – a new platform that is set to revolutionalise Hajj and Umrah services”. The theme of the conference is a ‘coded’ message signifying a gradual migration of hajj administrations and services into the ‘NUSUK platform’

The conference lived up to its billing as experts rolled out plans and programs that will shape the future of the Hajj and Umrah industry.