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Saudi Govt has not yet taken any decision to call off Hajj 2020

 

Updated: 27 March 2020 | Ibadat.pk | Hajj Desk: After the recently flurry of messages on social media and WhatsApp (regarding cancellation of Hajj 2020), Minister of Religious Affairs, Pir Noorul Haq Qadri held a press conference on Thursday (26 March) in which he clarified Saudi Arabia has not yet taken any decision to call off this year’s Haj, putting an end to rumours that Riyadh has decided to cancel the event due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Saudi Arabia has only told us not to finalise any Haj-related agreement for the time being. A final decision will be taken by King Salman himself,” Pir Noorul Haq Qadri told the press conference.

Directives by the Saudi Government Regarding Hajj 2020

Saudi Arabia on Thursday has sent directives to Pakistan stating that any Hajj preparation work should be temporarily halted due to the coronavirus panic, according to a letter received from the Hajj Ministry of the kingdom. Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri consequently halted work on the upcoming Hajj agreement.

Saudi Haj Minister Dr Mohammad Saleh bin Taher had advised the government not to finalise any agreement regarding hotels, provision of food and transport arrangements during this time as the matter at hand is uncertain due to the lockdown and containment measures against the novel coronavirus.

Ongoing monitoring of the dire situation to decide the fate of Hajj 2020

In the letter, Dr Mohammad Saleh said the Saudi government was monitoring the situation and would get in touch with Pakistan as soon as it felt that the virus outbreak had eased.

“The government has conveyed the Saudi message to all Haj operators and put on hold arrangements for the time being,” the minister said.

“But we are in touch with the Saudi Haj and Umrah ministry.”

Government Hajj 2020 Training Programs delayed

Since Hajj complex in Islamabad had been converted into a quarantine centre, the training of government hujjaj stod suspended – according to the press conference held by Pir Noorul Haq Qadri

The Ministry of Religious Affairs had conducted Haj ballot for the government scheme last month which saw a 31% reduction in year on year government Hajj Applications, but this was not due to coronavirus fear.

Read more: How will Hajj 2020 and the rest of Umrah Season 2019 – 2020 be impacted by Corona Virus?

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Has Hajj 2020 really been cancelled?

 

Recently there has been flurry of images (regarding cancellation of Hajj 2020) making rounds on social media accompanied by the following short message in English and Urdu:

سعودی حکومت نے اس بات کی تصدیق کی ہے کہ اس سال حج منسوخ ہو سکتا ہے اور تمام حج کمپنیوں کو کہا ہے کہ کسی بھی طرح کا کوئ معاہدہ نہ کریں کسی ہوٹل کسی معلم یا کسی ٹکٹ کا

The Saudi government has confirmed that this year the Hajj may be cancelled and has asked all Hajj companies not to make any deal with any hotel, trainer or ticket.

The reference for this image in question is the following notification:

Hajj Cancelled - Arabic Notification (Not by Saudi Govt)

Without questioning the authenticity of the above notification, it needs to be clarified that the above notification is NOT BY THE SAUDI GOVERNMENT, but by Omani Government which is advising its Hajj Group Organizers and Operators to delay making payments for hotels, transport companies and Maktab’s for Hajj 2020 as there is yet no clarity on how things will proceed.

The official stamp at the bottom of letter is of the Government of Oman and the letter is merely asking its agents to delay the process of doing agreements for its hujjaj.

Ministry of Hajj in Saudi Arabia is yet to announce any policy for Hajj 2020 in light of the ongoing pandemic COVID-19 and there has been misrepresentation of the above letter due to it being in Arabic.

We request people not to forward such letters under false pretences as this just fuel’s anxiety and panic.

It is pertinent to mention here that Saudi Government as yet has been very swift in taking strict action to curb the menace of Corona Virus like suspension of prayers at All Mosques (Except Masjid Al Haram in Makkah and Masjid Nabvi in Madinah), not allowing entry to all international Umrah Zaireen, imposing curfew in cities from 7pm to 6am and temporarily banning all travel from several nations including Pakistan . If current crisis doesn’t ease up then drastic measures might be taken but we have to wait for any update from the Saudi Government. Hence Hajj 2020 being cancelled can not be claimed as yet!

Read more: How will Hajj 2020 and the rest of Umrah Season 2019 – 2020 be impacted by Corona Virus?

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How will Hajj 2020 and the rest of Umrah Season 2019 – 2020 be impacted by Corona Virus?

Will Hajj 2020 be impacted by Corona Virus?

Pakistan travel industry experts are expecting that the Saudi Government may reduce Hajj Quota of different countries (residents of countries most affected might completely be barred from preforming Hajj in 2020) in an effort to manage the spread of virus. If this is the case then the overall Hajj Quota from Pakistan may be reduced and hence Quota of to Private Hajj Organizers will also get reduced. This means that the availability of Private Hajj Packages for 2020 in Pakistan will go down.

Kindly note: that these are just assumptions based on opinions of with in the industry and there is no confirmation from any source about any reduction in Quota. Nothing can be confirmed until things settle down and Umrah Visa issuance is revived by the Saudi Government.

Is it true that, Coronavirus Could Very Well Slow by the Summer, increasing the chances of Hajj 2020 moving ahead as planned?

According to Bloomberg: Evidence is starting to emerge that temperature and humidity do make a difference in the ability of the virus to infect large numbers. That should give health services hope for some respite as summer spreads across northern temperate regions, aiding the ability to plan for renewed outbreaks once winter rolls around.

However, the above evidence is yet to be widely tested and scientific confirmations about the above will need some time. If it is true, then due to extremes of temperatures being reached in a hot and dry country like Saudi Arabia, virus spread might be curtailed.

Considering the ongoing situation, is it advisable to go for Hajj in 2020?

Provided below is Health Advisory by Ibadat.pk Hajj Desk for Pilgrims intending to travel for Hajj in 2020: The following travellers are requested to delay their travel due to the constant threat of the COVID 19 virus in Saudi Arabia

1. Pregnant Women
2. Children
3. Diabetic Individuals
4. Those with chronic health issues such as cancer or respiratory diseases
5. Those with congenital disorders

What are some of the health precautions recommended for people intending to travel for Hajj in 2020?

Ibadat Hajj Desk Recommends the following precautions:

1. All immunizations should be up to date of travellers going to perform Hajj. These includes: Hepatitis A and B vaccinations, flue shots and as well as Polio vaccinations

2. Carry sanitizers, medical gloves, face masks, cold, cough and diarrhoea medication, and inhalers for asthmatic patients for emergency situations

3. Due to extremes of temperatures being reached in a hot and dry country like Saudi Arabia, all Pilgrims are requested to move to the cool area and seek medical assistance when faced with dizziness or dehydration

Has Hajj Quota ever been reduced by the Saudi Government?

Yes! Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had decreased quota of Pakistani pilgrims (and other hujjaj from around the world) by 20 percent in 2013 due to construction work for the extension of Masjid Al-Haram. The reduction in quota was implemented from 2013 till 2016 after which it was restored to its original amount.

Have residents of a country ever been barred from preforming Hajj?

The most recent case was in 2016, when Iranian pilgrims did not attend Hajj after the two countries Saudi Arabia and Iran failed to agree on security and logistics. Stampede of 2015 was cited by the Saudi Government as a reason for this measure.

What Happens when Quota of Private Hajj Packages 2020 from Pakistan get reduced?

Private Hajj Organizers from Pakistan, book Hajj Packages on first come first basis. Same will be the case for Private Hajj Packages 2020 from Pakistan. In case of reduction of Quota, Private Hajj Organizers will choose the potential hujjaj who registered their interest first and will have to refund money for those Hujjaj who they are not able to take with them due to the reduction of Quota. If you plan to go for Hajj in 2020, it is advisable to register your interest sooner than later, inorder to ensure your seat is saved in the Hajj Group.

Will ban on Umrah Continue for the reminder of the season 2019 - 2020?

It was initially expected that the temporary ban on Umrah will be lifted by Mid of April. But with new events coming to light, earlier assumptions of Umrah Commencing by March End / Mid-April are not looking likely.

Some industry experts believe that Umrah might not be allowed for international travellers for the rest of the season with some saying it might open for Ramadan 2020 if things settle down in the next 15 days.

. Kindly note confirmation about any of this cannot be provided until Saudi Government provides further details. However it is advised to not book any Umrah Packages until there is more clarity on the provided by the Saudi Government.

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Approx 31% reduction in Government Hajj Applications! Is it because of Corona Virus fears?

Ibadat Hajj Desk | Karachi: Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious affairs on Thursday announced balloting results of Government Hajj Applicants (successful applicants will travel for Hajj on government scheme later this year).

According to some news sources (like The Express Tribune)  Hajj balloting this year saw lesser number applications than last year because of the fears over coronavirus.

However, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri refuted this claim. And we believe he was right in doing so.

Sharp decline in Government Hajj Applications after 2018

If you analyse previous year’s figures of Government Hajj Applications, you will notice a sharp decline in numbers after Hajj 2018.

Govt Hajj Application

 

This is mainly attributed to sharp increase in government Hajj Package prices, which increased by approximately 40% after PTI government took charge. Hajj price increase was a result massive decline in Pakistani Rupee’s value (Read more: Impact of Exchange Rate Fluctuation on Hajj Package Price) .

Furthermore, sever economic downturn in the country over the past two years, has diminished the capability of masses to pay for this religious obligation (which is not deemed mandatory for people who don’t have the financial capacity to undertake the holy journey).

Government Quota Vs Private Hajj Quota

This year, a total 179,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj, including 107,526 under the government scheme and 71,684 under private scheme. This is the current allocated quota however there are fears that if the ongoing pandemic is not brought under control in a couple of months, Saudi Government might reduce quota in an effort to battle the virus.

It remains to be seen if such a measure will be taken or not and if so, in what proportion quota will be reduced between Private Hajj Organizer’s and Government.

Mr Noorul Haq Qadri, Religious Affairs Minister, has urged people not to spread rumours.

“We all have faith that there will be no epidemic in holy cities of Makkah and Medina,” he said. “We are in touch with the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and they have assured that they would take us into confidence before making any decision”.

Read More [Questions Regarding Hajj in 2020 and Umrah 2020]: How will Hajj 2020 and the rest of Umrah Season 2019 – 2020 be impacted by Corona Virus?

Overview of Government Hajj Balloting this year:

A total of 86,765 intending pilgrims were picked through general balloting out of 149,295 applicants. Last year, the ministry had received 216,623 applications from across the country, while total quota of Pakistani pilgrims was 184,210.

Under the government scheme, 86,765 were selected through the ballot, while 18,648 was declared successful without balloting. A total of 10,000 spaces were allotted to the aspiring pilgrims, who are 70-year-old or above. A total of 12,840 applications were received from 70-plus aspirants. The remaining 2,840 has been included in general balloting.

Those selected without balloting included 7,648 people who failed on three previous occasions. Also a quota of 1,000 had been allocated to the overseas Pakistanis. There have been 1,286 applications from overseas Pakistanis – 286 applications given a chance at the general draw.

Further procedure for Successful Government Hajj Applicants

Government Hajj applicants were being informed about their success or failure via SMS, while the ballot results would be uploaded on the ministry’s website: mora.gov.pk; and hajjinfo.org.

The successful applicants are required to submit medical certificate to their relevant bank branches by March 19.

The date and time of biometric from Etimad Centres will be announced soon. The unsuccessful applicants could get their money back from their relevant bank branch from Friday according to information provided by MORA.

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Ibadat.pk | As featured on Dawn News

On your way to a hassle-free pilgrimage

The writer is member of Dawn News staff: Twitter: @MutaherKhan

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2020

Planning for a pilgrimage, the last thing you need is any hassles or last minute glitches that deviate your focus. In comes Ibadat.pk — a Karachi-based startup that helps you find Hajj and Umrah packages and help ease your journey.

Go to the website, choose between Hajj or Umrah, select your dates and city and start searching. It will show you the listed plans with details including available seats, departure and arrival days along with the starting price.

You can open a particular package for more information which includes accommodation, itinerary and the facilities. To express interest, you have to fill in the form with contact details after which an Ibadat representative will call and inquire more about your preferences and then connect with the tour operator.

Unlike a typical marketplace where one can see the seller’s identity, Ibadat doesn’t allow that. Hund­reds of thousands of rupees at stake and you don’t even know who’s offering what? Houston, we have a problem. Or maybe not. “Revealing the tour operator means the customer can easily bypass us, which is why we withhold the information. And this wasn’t even a concern of users when we pilot-tested our website for lead generation,” says co-founder Faisal Naeem.

Now that’s just the consumer side. Ibadat also wants to serve the B2B segment by providing an ERP of sorts that displays real-time inventory and manages bookings seamlessly.

The startup was founded by Naeem brothers — Faisal and Adil — whose family is in the traditional religious travel business with pilot testing done in June 2019, and launched the Umrah module barely weeks ago.

However, Faisal is not the first one to explore this market. Many others have come and tried their luck as well. A startup from Lahore by the name of bookmyumrah.pk entered this space around three years back but as of early 2018, there was no activity on their Face­book page while the website doesn’t open anymore.

That perhaps gives an idea about the kinds of challenges marketplaces face in Pakistan, especially those catering to a niche. So what about Ibadat makes it better positioned than the rest to pull this off? “They were industry outsiders and had no order fulfillment mechanism of their own if need be. We, on the other hand, can serve the customer even if the third-party vendor bails out,” says Faisal, referring to his family business.

Even beyond the local scene, online aggregators don’t seem to have really kicked off in the developing world, except for maybe one Indonesian website to a limited extent. But that doesn’t mean there is no (potential) competition. Both Facebook and Google have increasingly expanded their wings to pretty much every possible business, often at the expense of dedicated marketplaces. The former, in particular, has served as a useful portal for small players to establish their internet presence at little to no cost, and offers massive traction — something that no one else can match.

Let’s talk money now. Ibadat makes revenue through a commission charged to the vendor on leads converted. And once (or if) the market adopts to a digital aggregator, then eventually they want to add another stream through the fee on sales process management platform. As for investment, the startup first wants to expand the supply side and establish a little bit more footprint on the consumer side to fetch a better round.

How is the landscape of religious tours like though? The number of Hajis, for starters, is regulated by a quota, of which a major chunk is served by the government thus leaving an even smaller population available to the private sector which of course is divided among multiple operators. Then add to it the extremely seasonal nature of the travel involved. Which brings us to the question: how much potential is in the market then?

“For Hajj, the volume is not as much but it’s extremely high value, with ticket size running into thousands of dollars per person which makes it lucrative. Meanwhile, the Umrah side is relatively more spread out over the year, has a smaller price tag but way more people (around 1.8 million people last year),” says the co-founder.

“It doesn’t end here: Ziarat is a whole untapped market with primarily group travels/scheduled departures (which is basiscally what we are trying to do with Umrah as well) involving an estimated 500,000 thousand people, all year-round, which we would like to eventually serve,” he adds. As per their estimates, the aggregate annual turnover of religious travel is around $1.9bn.

Other than that, Ibadat also has its eyes on the Pakistani Diaspora, who are not only more tech-savvy and thus likelier to rely on an aggregator, but also generally have a greater affordability than an average resident.

“Pakistani citizens in the Gulf Cooperation Council fall under our quota. Plus since the issuance of e-visas for Hajj, many in the UK, US, Canada are also looking more and more at the green passport since tour packages are much cheaper here, and we feel our online presence positions us to cash in on that segment,” the founder says.

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First Hajj Flight in 2019

PIA to carry first batch of Hujjaj in 2019 on 4th July

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) have completed preparation for Hajj operation 2019. The first batch will take 300 pilgrims on Pakistan International Airline (PIA) from Islamabad. These Hujjaj will be from the Governments Hajj Scheme 2019.

Hajj Flights from Pakistan in Numbers:

  • There are 318 scheduled flights to take the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia from 4th of July.
  • Pilgrims travelling for hajj through Pakistan International Airlines are as estimated below:
    • 14,040 pilgrims from Islamabad
    • 15,125 pilgrims from Karachi
    • 14,922 from Lahore
    • 8,740 from Peshawar
    • 4,300 from Sialkot
    • 5,300 from Multan
    • 1,700 from Faisalabad
    • 8,794 from Quetta
    • 639 from Sukkur

The flights will commence from 4th of July, whereas the return of pilgrims from Saudi Arabia will begin from 17th of August. Ministry of Religious Affairs and the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia has started to schedule the arrival and departure according to the slots available after going through the international flights coming to the country.

Hajj Flight from Pakistan - Pakistan International Airlines

Private Hajj Groups Opting for PIA

As compared to previous years, this year number of many private Hajj Operators have opted for PIA as well. There are several reasons for it:

  • PIA has made efforts to improve its service and improved its scheduled timeliness (on-time performance)
  • Management has made efforts to offer more seats to private Hajj Operators by adding more flights
  • PIA offers a direct flight
  • It is expected to be one of the first two airlines to be offered advance immigration and customs for Pilgrims going for Hajj in 2019.

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Hajj 2019 – Photo Contest

Hajj 2019 – Best Picture Contest

Hajj 2019 Photo Contest

Ibadat.pk is pleased to announce Photo contest in collaboration with Zain Telecom Saudi Arabia (for the upcoming Hajj season). In an effort to show you that Zain Telecom has the best network coverage throughout Saudi Arabia, and the fact that you can take a picture or video anywhere and upload instantly, we are bringing you this Photo Contest. However please note that you don’t have to be a customer of Ibadat.pk or a user of Zain Telecom in-order to enter the contest.

Summary:

  • Contest Dates: 15th July – 31st August, 2019
  • Eligibility: This competition is open to all submissions from Hujjaj travelling for Hajj in 2019
  • Announcement of Winner: The announcement of winners, along with the posting of the winning photograph on Ibadat’s FB and Instagram page.

SUBMISSION PROCESS:

  1. Allowed to take pictures that are Hajj related and interesting. Whatever is significant, unique, interesting and can be related to Hajj will be eligible for selection in the contest.
  2. Share those pictures (with a short description) on your Facebook and Instagram (Instagram being optional but not compulsory), with the hashtag #IbadatPk
  3. Make sure the pictures are public so we can view them
  4. Like our Facebook page – Ibadat.Pk (Like Button Needed)
  5. Tag us in the photo by using the following tag @ibadat.pakistan (will help us get a notification and your chances for selection in the contest will increase)
  6. Once the photos are submitted using the above process – We will select the photo according to the criteria. Photos that are selected by us will be published by us (ibadat.pk’s facebook and Instagram accounts)
  7. The photo that gets the most likes and shares will win

Pro Tip: In-order to improve your chances for winning the contest do the following things in-order to win: Once we publish the photo on our page:

  • Tag friends in the photo posted on Ibadat.pk’s FB page.
  • Share that post on your timeline.

Once we select the photo and share the post on our page, we will notify you by commenting on the picture submitted so that you can share with your friends and family.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS:

  • All images shared with the hashtag #IbadatPk will become Ibadat.Pk’s property and can be reused by us
  • Images shared after the deadline will not be included in the contest
  • All the requirements mentioned above in the submission process should be followed in order to enter the contest.
  • The decision of the Ibadat.pk community management will be final
  • The profile of the person sharing the image should be genuine.
    • The person claiming the price will need to have a Pakistani bank account or come to our office for collection
    • Needs to prove that identity is the same as face-book account

PRIZES:

The prizes would be awarded to the winners 7 to 10 days after the submissions close. The winners would be announced on Ibadat.Pk’s Facebook page.
All the people participating in this photo contest are competing to win the following prizes:

  • 1st position: A cash prize of Rs.10,000
  • 2nd Position: A cash prize of Rs.7,000
  • 3rd Position: A cash prize of Rs. 5,000

In order to stay updated regarding this photo contest or future contests submit your details below:

 

Get a Mobile Sim


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E-visa Facility for Pakistani Hujjaj and Umrah Zaireen

E-visas for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims

Earlier in March 2019, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced plans to start issuing electronic visas for pilgrims, allowing them to apply online and receive their visas within minutes.

 “Currently, pilgrims who are coming from outside the Kingdom are tied to Hajj and Umrah service-providing companies and agents in their countries. The electronic visas will now be issued to these entities who will be licensed to facilitate Hajj and Umrah in these countries,” Abdulrahman Shams, general supervisor of the electronic platform for Hajj and Umrah, said in an interview with MBC.

An E-Visa facility similar to the one as provided by the United Arab Emirates, will make the process easier by issuing the visas without pilgrims having to send their passports to the embassy.

However, there was no confirmation whether this facility will be provided to Pakistani pilgrims travelling for Hajj in 2019.

Earlier this year when Saudi Crown Price, Muhammad Bin Salman, came to Pakistan, Imran Khan (Pakistani Prime Minister) requested the crown price to help facilitate Pakistani Hujjaj during the visa issuance and immigration process.

Seems like Pakistan Government’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia proved to be successful as the Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Dr. Noor-ul-Haq Qadri announced earlier in the year about the E-Visa facility to Pakistani pilgrims.

Saudi Arabia has started issuing e-visas for Hajj pilgrims

It can now be confirmed that Saudi Arabia has stated issuing e-visas for Pakistani pilgrims. Image shown below of the first E-Visa issued. (note: personal details like name and image have been removed to protect the identity).

Hajj E Visa

Why is this a very good development specifically for overseas Pakistanis?

This development is amazing news for overseas Pakistani’s specifically those living in the Gulf countries.

In Previous years, it was mandatory for overseas Pakistanis to come for Visa processing. However, with e-visa policy coming to Pakistan just for visa processing will no longer be required.

In Previous years, it was advisable to come at-least 15 days before group departure for visa processing. Number of days required however fluctuates year on year. This meant that Pakistani expatriates had to come twice to Pakistan if they had to go for Hajj – once for visa processing and once before travel.

Now, people will just have to come to Pakistan just a few days before flight departure for Hajj. This year, as yet, biometrics are not being taken as part of Hajj visa processing. In the future, if it is mandatory for Hajj visa processing, it may require travel before Hajj or if biometrics facility is available in their country of residence, they might be allowed to give biometrics there. There is no clarity on this part.

Hujjaj travelling with Hajj Organizers who offer flights transiting from their country of residence, may not have to come to Pakistan at all. How-ever this will purely depend on the Hajj Group Organizer, flights chosen and Pakistani Government policy.

If there is a via flight that is transiting from your city of residence then we can check with the Hajj Group Organizer if you can join the group in the transiting city. E.g. If a Hajj Organizer offers Emirates in its Hajj Package and you are a resident of Dubai – then we can check with the Hajj Group Organizer if you can join the group in Dubai.

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Points to remember when making payment | Hajj Advice

Important things to consider when making payments for your Hajj Package

It’s great that you have decided to go for Hajj and you now want to confirm and pay for your package. Before you make the payment for your Hajj Package, you need to remember the following important points in-order to protect your payments (as Hajj is no longer cheap and you are paying substantial money):

Ensure that payment is made through a cheque / pay order / online transfer

When making payments for your hajj package, it is always advisable to pay through the above-mentioned commonly used methods. This will ensure that you have a paper trail and proof of payment to the Hajj Group Organizer. Any other method that provides a paper trail (like paying through mobile wallets) can also work. But it is imperative that you can trace your transactions.

Make the payments only in favour of the Hajj Group Organizer

It is extremely important to remember that the account title (on your cheque, pay order etc) / account name (if making online transfer / digital wallet transfers) is of the Hajj Group Organizer that you will be traveling with,

For Hajj, never make payments in favour of any other company or individual! This point can not be stressed enough.

We at Ibadat.pk will always tell you the name of the verified Hajj Group Organizer that you are being booked on. Furthermore, wewill never ask you for payment of Hajj Packages.

You should also verify that the Hajj Organizer is registered with the Ministry of religious Affairs.  All Hajj Packages listed on our website are by verified Hajj Group Organizers. However, for your own satisfaction you can follow the method of verification (as defined in our in-depth article on how to verify Hajj Operators) and do it your self as well before finalizing your bookings.

Ask for a receipt / invoice of your payment or deposit

Always ask for an invoice of the amount of money that is paid by you. Remember, there can be circumstances where, invoice may not be available. In these cases, always get a signed and stamped copy of the cheque you are giving, as a proof of payment. In cases of online transfer or pay orders, paper trail is very visible  so these methods are generally safer.

Understand package facilities that you have paid for and get them in writing before you depart

It is important to understand each and every facility that you have paid for as part of the Hajj Package e.g,

  • If you have selected a separate room for your family then you will be paying a higher price for it. Before departing have it in writing, that you paid for a separate room, so that there are no misunderstandings later.
  • If you have paid for a 5 star hotel (for eg Hilton Madinah), then it is essential that you get the same hotel or a similar hotel (i.e. a 5 star hotel). Please try and understand that, there are some times unavoidable circumstances when the same hotel (as mentioned in your hajj packages) might become unavailable at the very last minute even though rooms have been booked by your Hajj Group Organizer  (In Saudi Arabia –  such unavoidable circumstances should not come as a surprise as they are relatively frequent). In these case you should be offered a similar category hotel (that is another 5 star hotel).

Verify the published /listed hajj package price (in Saudi Riyal) is the same as the amount you are paying

When we say published price of the package, we mean the price mentioned in your hajj forms filled out by the Hajj Group Organizers.

You should also review prices as published in promotional material like brochure’s, flyers etc. It is very important to note that price in Saudi Riyal is what needs to be verified. Due to the recent economic crisis in Pakistan and the quickly depreciating Pakistan Rupee, many Hajj Group Organizers have released packages in Saudi Riyals. Even if they have not, you need to take into account the dramatic fluctuations.

Please remember,  prices in Saudi Riyal will stay the same throughout the booking period (of a particular season eg Hajj 2019). However, PKR prices may fluctuate due to our unstable currency.

Hence, always look for the published price in SAR.

Rate of Exchange at the time of payment is applicable

It is not necessary that a person makes the whole payment at once. Depending on the policies of the particular Hajj Group Organizers, many potential hujjaj make payments of their Hajj Packages at different times. How-ever it is important to note that, if the rate of exchange fluctuates in the time between when you make the initial deposit and the time when you make your subsequent deposits, then the new exchange rate will become applicable on the remaining amount that needs to be paid.

Hence it is advised that potential Hujjaj make complete payments as soon as possible, to protect them selves from the fluctuations.

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Hotel Experiences and Reviews

Experiences of Pakistani Religious Travelers

This Section provides in depth experiences of Pakistani Hujjaj, Umrah Zaireen and Religious Tour Operators of choosing a hotels for Haj and Umrah. Our aim is to provide tips and ticks along with advice regarding choosing a particular hotel.

Hence this is not just a review section. Keeping in line with our aim to be the ultimate guide for religious tourism, we will primarily be basing content using the experience and expert advice of Tour Operators and experiences of previous Hujjaj / Umrah Zaireen.

The hotels we cover in this section are the hotels offered by our Umrah tour operators and Hajj Group Organizers listed on our platform Ibadat.pk.

Impact of Hotel when choosing an Umrah Package

Even though hotels are not the only element of a Umrah Package,  hotel stay can have a considerable impact on your religious journey. This is why, when making a decision, it is good to know the nitty gritty’s of particular properties like potential waiting times for elevators etc besides just the hotel price and star rating.

Impact of Hotel when choosing Hajj Package

For Hajj packages, hotel property should play an even smaller part in the package selection decision making process as Hajj Packages are comprised of many other elements like Maktab Categroy, which should be given more weight-age.

We hope that by reading about hotels in Makkah and hotels in Madinah – you will be able to make a more informed decision.

Please remember us in your prayers.


Hotels in Makkah

Hotels in Madinah

 

 

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Exchange Rate Fluctuation | Hajj Package Prices

The impact of exchange rate on Hajj Package Price

Pakistani Rupee in a State of Free Fall:

Rupee’s tumble has begun. The value of the US dollar against the rupee touched another all-time high for the second consecutive day, reaching approximately Rs148 in the inter-bank market (as of 12:30 Pm – 16 May 2019).

Fears of further devaluation as a result of the agreement with the IMF have depressed the currency market and the rupee may lose more against the greenback in the coming days,” Secretary General of Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan Zafar Paracha as reported by Dawn.

Exchnage Rate Impact on Hajj Package Price

Falling Rupee increases Hajj Package Prices:

Approximately, 85% to 90 % of the payments Hujjaj make for their packages is sent to Saudi Arabia by the operators to make arrangement (like hotel bookings, Maktab payments, food and transport arrangements etc). Only a very small portion of these payments are used for arrangements in Pakistan as these arrangements are limited to Hajj Training Programs, give aways and salaries for Hajj teams traveling from the country.

Due to this Hajj Package price calculation is actually done in Saudi Riyal and then converted in Pakistani Rupees. Hence even a minor depreciation in Pakistani Rupee’s value results in a directly proportional increase in hajj package price.

On average every 1 Rs rise in Saudi Riyal value, will result in package price rising by Rs 15,000  to Rs 50,000 (depending on the Hajj Package)

Flash Backs from Hajj 2018

For many Hajj Group Organizers, the current scenario is very much a flash back from last year’s Hajj.

in 2018, Hajj Operators were stuck in exactly the same situation, as when they released their Package last year the exchange rate was: SAR 1 = PKR 29. However when the booking were being made, it had crept up to SAR 1 = PK34.

Previous trend in the market has been such that Hajj Packages were released in Pakistani Rupees for easy understanding and communication of the package details. However since the Pakistani Government does not provide any protection to businesses in terms of shielding from currency fluctuations like offer financial products like currency futures / swaps etc – Hajj Group Organizers suffered huge exchange rate losses due to this in 2018.

Keeping in mind last years situation,  most of the Hajj Organizers have released Hajj Package Prices for 2019 in Saudi Riyal.

How can potential Hujjaj protect them selves from depreciating Rupee

Hajj Package prices are pegged in Saudi Riyal (SAR) and the prices provided in SAR would not change during on going bookings. However as stated previously if Pak Rupee depreciates, the package price will automatically rise.

Hence if you have decided to go for Hajj in 2019, then the best way to protect yourself from fluctuations is by :

  1. paying your Hajj Group organizer for your package as soon as possible Or
  2. if you want to take time in deciding the right Hajj Group Organizer or the right hajj package, you should convert some of your savings to Saudi Riyal in-order to shield your self from depreciating PKR

 

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How to verify Private Hajj Group Organizers

Verifying Hajj Organizers

When selecting the right private hajj package and Hajj Operator for the journey of your lifetime – it is paramount to verify that the Hajj Operator has a quota and is allowed by the Ministry of Religious Affairs to take private hajj groups.

It has to be stress again that one needs to be very cautious when selecting Hajj Operators so as to not fall into the trap of the companies who offers Hajj packages at low prices as they might be bogus companies pretending to be Hajj Group Organizers. There have been many instances in the past when unverified companies pretending to be Hajj group organizers have taken money from potential Hujjaj and run away.

Here at Ibadat.pk, we have only put up packages of verified the Hajj Group Organizers and you should as well before booking.

Verification process: HP Number (most important element)

Verification is the essential first step in choosing the right hajj package as there is always confusion around the legitimacy of private hajj package providers in Pakistan.

You have to make sure that the tour operators are registered by Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA). You can confirm this by looking at their HP number.

HP Number (Registration Number): Registered Private Hajj Operator is a company that has been provided quota by MORA and is authorized to take private Hajj Groups to Saudi Arabia. Any company that is registered with MORA will be issued a HP Number. This is the most important number needed for verification of the operator.

Note that some companies might provide you with Hajj Enrollment or DTS number to justify that they have a Hajj Quota. It is important to note is that there is a difference between being enrolled at the ministry of religious affairs and being registered at MORA. Both enrollment and DTS numbers are insignificant for verification of the Hajj Organizer.

  • Enrollment number: any company that wants to apply for Hajj Quota gets enrolled by MORA. Basically, being enrolled signifies that the company is on the waiting list and enrollment number provides the number on that list. There are approximately 2500 companies enrolled with Ministry of Religious Affairs but they don’t have Hajj Quota. Don’t get fooled by a 5-digit enrollment number that’s not the registration number.
  • DTS Number: DTS is a license granted by Department of Tourist Services that allows companies to work in the field of travel and tourism. It gives the capability to travel agencies / companies to collect and process sensitive documents like passports etc. But DTS license does not signify that the company has been granted Hajj Quota.

How to verify ?

The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pakistan has introduced a short message service (SMS) for helping the pilgrims to save themselves from fictitious Hajj group organizing companies (HGOs). As per an official of the ministry, an intending pilgrim who is willing to perform the holy ritual via the Hajj Group Organizers (HGO) should send the first four digits of HGO’s enrolment numbers from mobile phone to 8331 to check and verify the HGO’s authenticity. You will get all details regarding the Hajj Group Organizer – including address, quota, CEO name etc.

The recently launched sms service is a great in for the help of intending Haj pilgrims.

Business to Business Sales of Hajj Packages

Having said this it is important to note that you might come across companies that selling Hajj Packages of actual registered organizers. These companies might be a part of the affiliated network or business to business network of Hajj Group Organizer. Basically, companies that are not registered to take Hujjaj but are selling Hajj packages of the actual registered Hajj Organizers.

This is called B2B (Business to Business Sales). In this case you have to be careful and When the agent sells on behalf of Registered Hajj Group Organizer, it is important to confirm the following before moving forward with the booking:

  • Name of the Hajj Group Organizer whose packages are being sold
  • Meet the actual Hajj Group Organizer before finalizing the package
  • Payment should always be made in the name of the registered Hajj Group Organizer
  • It is important to verify the facilities being offered by the Hajj Group Organizer and confirm if there are no miss commitments being made by the B2B agent
  • Important to verify that the hajj package price being paid by you is the same as the listed price offered by the registered Hajj Group Organizer.
    • B2B agents are not authorized to charge more than the listed price
    • B2B agents are not allowed to collect payments on behalf of Hajj Group Organizers

Note About Ibadat

Please note – we at ibadat.pk will never ask you to pay us for your packages. We are here to just facilitate the Hujjaj in selecting the right hajj package and choosing only trust worthy hajj group organizers. We are a package comparison platform. Hence we will always send you to meet the registered Hajj Group Organizer and pay directly to the Hajj Group Organizer.

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Private Hajj Organizer

How to select the right Private Hajj Group Organizer!

Selecting the right Hajj Group Organizer (HGO) is one of the fundamentals tasks in the process of choosing the right private hajj packages.

If you do not choose the right Hajj Operator, then one of the most important journeys of your life time can turn out to be tough.

What is meant by the right Hajj organizer

By right Private Hajj Operator we mean, the team that

  • Provides the facilities you need in a package
  • Will be there for you when you have any issues / questions
  • Can understand what you are looking for
  • Will assist you at the time if your need
  • And most importantly, the team that you are absolutely comfortable with!

The last point is very important in terms of the fact that, you should meet the team and the management before booking packages. You need to judge for yourself if you can travel with them easily. Your aim at Hajj is to do ibadat and fulfill your religious obligation and leave the worrying to your group leaders!

Furthermore, you should also note that some Hajj Groups are predominantly composed of follower from a particular sect of Islam. Note – this does not mean that the organizers of the Hajj Group discriminate against other sects or do not allow other sects to travel with them but by the virtue of their team, management and travelling Mufti (religious scholar), they attract a particular sect. Hence if you are a Sunni and not comfortable in a group that is dominated by Shiate Muslims or vice versa, you should rethink before booking.

It is very important to mention here that by the grace of Allah, at Hajj, in most Pakistani private Hajj Groups you will find that all sects peacefully co-exist and intermingle hence it is generally not an issue! Hence unless you a particularly finicky about sectarian issues then you should not worry about this.

What to look for in a Private Hajj Group Organizer

  1. First and for-most it is very important that you verify that the Hajj Group Organizer / tour operator has hajj quota. This point can not be stressed enough and it is so important that we have written a separate article for the verification process. Please read it carefully: how to verify a Hajj Group Organizer.
  2. Make sure that the group/tour operator you select have ample knowledge and the right information of the upcoming journey. In case they don’t know about package/Hajj procedure, don't take risk and change your tour operators.
  3. You must visit their office and confirm that they have a proper office. This will also provide you an insight on how their services will be.
  4. You must verify their previous experience by looking at photos, testimonials and other details from of previous Hajj.

Note that our team at Ibadat.pk goes through the painstaking job of verifying and finding the right Hajj Operators before listing their Hajj packages on our platform. We will always ask you to go and meet the Hajj operators and pay them directly so that you can assess for your self if they are the right team for you. Provided below is the synopsis of how we select the Hajj Operators. You can follow this as well.

How we at Ibadat.pk Select Hajj Group Organizers

We look at the following details and would request you to do the same before confirming your hajj bookings.

  1. How trustworthy is the Hajj Group Organizer?
    • Market Reputation
    • Recommendation from industry peers
    • Verification of Hajj Quota
  2. How are the services?
    • Testimonials from previous Hujjaj
    • Recommendation of Pervious Hujjaj
    • Attitude towards helping Hujjaj
    • Eagerness of resolving complaints of hujjaj
  3. Years of Experience (2-5 years minimum)
    • Some companies have new quota that was recently received (1 / 2 years ago) but they are managed by Groups with considerable experience. Such companies are acceptable.

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