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Pilgrims from Oman gear up as Umrah season begins.

MUSCAT: With the onset of the Umrah season, visas for which were opened recently, pilgrims from Oman are gearing up to perform the pilgrimage. Reports from Jeddah said that Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) is all set to receive a record number of Umrah pilgrims this year.

Taking a lead, Travel Point LLC Muscat has already put in place a plan to organise Umrah trips. Irshad Ali Khan of Travel Point LLC said, "We have already obtained the visa processing approval. Travel Point organised its first group, 60 people from Sultan Qaboos University, which departed from Muscat to Saudi Arabia on January 18. The group will return on January 25."

Irshad added: "Our Islamic Tourism Division gives people an opportunity to avail themselves of our exclusive Sharia-friendly Umrah packages, so your religious sentiments are cared for through your voyage. We're devoted to the care of pilgrims when they are embarking on a journey of faith."

Irshad further said that a group led by Dr. Bilal Philips, founder and dean of Islamic Online University, which imparts online intensive, undergraduate, and graduate courses in Islamic Studies, will depart from Muscat in March. This seven-day trip will offer an opportunity to pilgrims to be under the guidance of Dr Bilal Philips, who will be training the pilgrims during the course of the journey.

The size of the group will not go beyond 48 and will be on first-come -first-serve basis. Starting this season, Travel Point LLC will organise Umrah trips every fortnight by air. "This trip will commence on Tuesdays and will comprise four nights in Madinah and four nights in Makkah. This would cost RO160," Irshad further said, while adding that its spacious and centrally-located office in Qurum (near Salam Centre) has different divisions to deal with leisure as well as religious travel.

Reports from Jeddah said that there was an increase of 1 million Umrah pilgrims during 2011 as compared to the previous year, with people coming from all over the world.

As part of the new Umrah plan, the authorities in Jeddah have clarified that only pilgrims who have reserved return tickets for their departure would be allowed to enter the airport terminal.

Abdul Hameed Abal Ari, director general of KAIA, said this arrangement was aimed at avoiding a heavy rush as well as to prevent a situation where pilgrims are stranded at the airport for a long time.

"We have virtually started preparations for the next Umrah season well in advance, and this was in coordination and planning with the concerned government agencies at the airport," he said.

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Publication:Times of Oman (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Jan 24, 2012
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