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A rare collection of the Holy Quran was presented in Riyadh

A rare collection of the Holy Quran was presented in Riyadh

Mecca: The Consul General of the United Kingdom has expressed his relief over the return of British pilgrims to holy sites in Saudi Arabia after a two-year absence due to the Govt-19 epidemic.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that one million pilgrims will be allowed to perform Hajj this year, including those from abroad.

For the past two years, Hajj and Umrah have been banned only for those in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to Arab News at the Iftar dinner in Mecca, British Consul General Chief Asher praised the department’s decision to allow British Muslims to enjoy religious rites in Saudi Arabia again.

“It would be great to come back to Mecca after a while,” he said. “God willing, the campus is very busy. As we can see, the pilgrims returned to the kingdom from England. The opening of the e-visa, in particular, allowed thousands of British pilgrims to come to Mecca and travel to Madinah and perform Umrah, usually during Ramadan.

“Of course before COVID-19, we expected tens of thousands of British citizens to come to Mecca during the month of Ramadan. So, God willing, we will see an increase in the number of pilgrims coming to Mecca from England.

The previous breakfast was arranged by the Embassy in 2019.

Saif al-Din Asher, British Consul General in Jeddah. (Photo by Hota Pasta)

Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom enjoy long-standing friendship, strong bilateral relations and valuable cooperation on economic and cultural fronts. But there is also religious cooperation.

“We have more than two and a half million Muslims in the UK, which is 5% of the population. Thus, tens of thousands of Muslims travel to Saudi Arabia every year. Usually, the number of pilgrims coming for Umrah is more than 100,000 per year.

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“So the numbers are important. The role of Saudi Arabia in welcoming and caring for the pilgrims during their stay is very important and the pilgrims are greatly appreciated by them and by us in the UK Government.

In 2019, more than 130,000 Hajj and Umrah pilgrims performed Hajj and Umrah in the UK. But the last two Hajj seasons have seen an unprecedented drop in the number of international pilgrims due to travel restrictions and other locks in Saudi Arabia and around the world.

Usher said he did not know how many British pilgrims would come for this Hajj season, but he said the number could be between 8,000 and 10,000.

“We are waiting for the official announcement from the Saudi authorities and look forward to welcoming the British pilgrims coming here to Mecca this summer,” he added.

The role of Saudi Arabia in welcoming and caring for the pilgrims during their stay is very important and the pilgrims are greatly appreciated by them and by us UK Government.

Seif Usher, Consul General of the United Kingdom

Usher, who converted to Islam 25 years ago, has worked in Sudan, Jordan, Iraq and Syria.

His first Ramadan in Saudi Arabia was in 2019, however he came to the country in September 2018 to oversee the Hajj pilgrimage for British pilgrims.

This is his fourth career in Saudi Arabia this year.

“I think Ramadan is a very special time of year for all Muslims. This is the month when you can find spiritual peace. We can enjoy going to the mosque for Darawih prayers, especially if we have the opportunity to do so in Mecca.

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“So I’m very lucky to have this opportunity. It’s back to normal life after Kovit’s hard years, thank God, it’s so good to be here.

On Monday Iftar hosted a banquet for members of the British Armed Forces performing Umrah.

Naveed Mohammed, the British military liaison officer responsible for improving relations with the British Muslim community, traveled to Saudi Arabia with 10 other Muslims to perform Umrah.

He told Arab News: “The level of care and organization I have seen is exceptional. Our host in the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces took very good care of us. As we walk around, we look around the various sites in Mecca and Jeddah. All we see is the highest organization, the highest level of readiness and the way the Saudi authorities take care of all the pilgrims.

“It doesn’t matter if the person is from one part of the world or the other. Everyone is treated like guests, which is nice to see.