The plan however does not mention anything about Umrah pilgrims from abroad.
Ramadan is likely to start in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states either on April 12 or 13, 2021. The final date will be confirmed based on the sighting of the new moon of the holy month of Ramadan on 29th of the on-going month Sha’aban.
In the wake of the renewed wave of the coronavirus, Saudi Arabia unveiled the detailed guidelines and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) to be followed in the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.
However, the Ramadan 2021 Plan is silent on the foreign pilgrims, confirming once again that there will not be any chance for pilgrims from other parts of the world to perform Umrah during the month of fasting.
If it happens, this will be for the second year in a row when international travellers will be denied entry into the Kingdom and thus miss the opportunity to perform Umrah.
Umrah during the month of Ramadan is special – in terms of the unique experience and more importantly the reward from Almighty Allah.
Saudi Arabia had lifted the Umrah ban in October 2020 after the coronavirus pandemic came under control. More than 13 million mask-wearing worshippers visited the mosques once the seven-month prayer and Umrah suspension was lifted.
The Kingdom however re-imposed a ban on international flights and travel in January. The ban was first announced till March 31, but was later extended till May 17, 2021 as the new wave of COVID-19 is yet to be brought under control.
However, pilgrims planning to perform Umrah in Ramadan were hoping that there will be some relaxation in travel restrictions as the holy month nears. But, with the release of Ramadan Plan which is silent on foreign pilgrims, it is highly unlikely for the international Umrah pilgrims, especially from India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia – the Muslim dominated countries, to get Umrah visa clearance.
Meanwhile, as part of the Ramadan Plan for the Two Holy Mosques, the authorities have removed Zamzam coolers and also prohibited sharing and distribution of water and dates.
“Zamzam water coolers remain unavailable, but ushers will provide 200,000 bottles of Zamzam water on a daily basis”, Sheikh Abdurahman Al-Sudais, the head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, said.
“Those who wish to break their fast at the Grand Mosque or Prophet’s Mosque will be allowed to bring in water and dates for personal consumption only. No sharing or distribution will be allowed”, he added.
“No meals would be allowed within the mosques’ premises or courtyards. It will, however, be providing meals for visitors who are breaking their fast and these meals will be distributed individually”, he added.
Al-Sudais also said that, with the help of nearly 10,000 workers, the Two Holy Mosques will accommodate the number of worshippers according to the plan set in place by authorities to prevent overcrowding.
The Ramadan Plan has not mentioned any guidelines for Itikaf. Itikaf means to be in isolation in a mosque with the intention of solely dedicating your time to the worship of Allah. It is the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to sit in Itikaf in the last 10 days of Ramadan.
Earlier reports had said the Saudi Arabia is considering to prohibit Itikaf this year too in the wake of the pandemic.