khaleejtimes - 7/12/2018 6:10:31 PM - GMT (+4 )
UAE residents may now breathe a sigh of relief after the significant drop of some 50 per cent in the prices of the Haj pilgrimage.
The reported drop in prices followed the introduction of a mandatory electronic registration system by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments.
The details, services and packages of the 144 accredited Haj contractors in the UAE are now available online for the pilgrims who can easily and more conveniently decide on the programme they opt for.
This has further led to a stiff competition among Haj contractors and consequently a significant drop of pilgrimage prices, as compared to previous years.
Pilgrims have also voiced their satisfaction with the new electronic system that has remarkably saved their time, money and effort, and cut the necessary procedures for registration and Haj permit.
"It has become so easy for all pilgrims to decide on the right Haj contractors that meet their demands and budget," Sherif Al Wakeel, an Egyptian resident who plans to perform Haj this year, told Khaleej Times.
Ashraf Yaseen, a Jordanian pilgrim, said a regular Haj programme used to cost over Dh40,000 to Dh50,000 in the previous years. "It is now costing only Dh10,000 to Dh15,000, following the enforcement of the new electronic system."
However, Haj prices differ as per the services provided, according to Ahmed Al Amrawi, a Haj contractor. "The closer the hotel is, the higher the prices go, for example."
Ibrahim Ali, a Haj contractor in Ras Al Khaimah, said that pilgrimage prices are generally lower in the Northern Emirates than Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
"Many pilgrims from other emirates have been registered with Haj contractors based in Ras Al Khaimah and other Northern Emirates because of the lower prices."
Dr Mohammed Mattar Al Kaabi, chairman of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, said the new electronic system is based on an intensive study of all the strengths and weaknesses of previous Haj seasons.
"All those planning to perform pilgrimage need to have their full details entered in the new e-system.
The details and services of all Haj contractors are also registered in the system, he added. "All the administrative, financial and health procedures are now electronically processed through this system."
As agreed with the Saudi authorities, 6,228 pilgrims are expected to perform Haj this year. "This means a rise of 1,246 pilgrims in the UAE quota as compared to previous years.
"Up to 4,900 of these have already got Haj permits. The Haj organising committee has contacted these pilgrims to confirm their participation."
The electronic system, also enforced by the Saudi authorities, is meant to ensure pilgrims' convenience. "It helps fix specific dates for completing each and every procedure."
"For more information, inquiries and clarifications, applicants can contact the 'Pilgrims Happiness Centre' on 056 5334933 or 056 3344944, or the authority website."
Mohammed Saad, a Haj contractor, said another factor that reduced the cost is reforms in the bank deposit system. Earlier, every contractor had to give a Dh500,000 bank guarantee, which is now decided in view of the prices collected and the number of pilgrims registered with the contractor." Sayed Gabriel, another Haj contractor, said clear images of the hotel rooms, means of transport and airlines are displayed in the new system. "It might cost only Dh23,000 for air travel and a hotel room close to the holy mosques in Madinah and Makkah."
"Some Haj contractors are even offering five-star Haj packages against Dh25,000 to Dh35,000 in comparison to Dh45,000 to Dh90,000 in previous Haj seasons," said Mohammed Saleh, another Haj contractor.