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Ding-dong of words leaves Qataris and residents in a state of limbo over Umrah and Hajj

Qataris and it’s expat residents were left in a state of limbo due to war of words between Saudi and Qatari authorities who accused each other of hampering Umrah and Hajj arrangements.

Saudi ‘welcome’

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Monday that Qataris are welcome to visit the kingdom to perform Umrah rituals, accusing the Qatari government from preventing its citizens and residents from performing the rituals.

A statement from the Saudi Press Agency read: “Based on the negative attitude and intransigence of the Qatari authorities to enable citizens and residents of Qatar to perform Hajj and Umrah rituals, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah welcomes the Qatari people to perform Umrah rituals following a completion of registering their legal information upon arrival at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah,” the ministry added.

“With regard to expatriates in Qatar who want to perform Umrah rituals, they can through registering their data on the Ministry’s website, and completing electronic contracting procedures with the Saudi authorized Umrah companies for selecting the service package,” the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said.

Qatari response

Qatari authorities responded by expressing surprise at the statement by the Ministry of Haj and Umra in Saudi Arabia regarding the rights of citizens and residents of Qatar in practicing Islamic rituals in the Holy Land.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry denied claims that Qatar did not enable citizens and residents to perform Hajj and Umrah, stressing that the kingdom continues to impose obstacles and arbitrary measures that single out those living in Qatar in particular out of the rest of the Muslim world.

The Qatari ministry backed its statement with a number of issues that remain unresolved such as Jeddah by road from Doha was not possible due to the closing of the borders, direct air travel from Doha to Jeddah was also unavailable, which represents a burden on pilgrims in general and the elderly.

The ministry also lamented that the entry of citizens and residents of Qatar was subject only to the ‘whims of the designated employees’, pointing towards Saudi agents have been designated to undertake and service worshippers.

Qatari officials also said that they documented a number of cases of people being prevented from Umrah in the past adding that ministry also received complaints that some Qatari citizens tried to communicate with the certified Haj and Umrah companies in Saudi Arabia but were ignored.

Saudi dismissal

Saudi Arabia then dismissed Qatar’s allegations that its citizens were made to suffer difficulties as they went to perform Umrah, issuing a statement through Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Pakistan released a statement on Thursday correcting false reports circulated in local Pakistani media about Qatari nationals being barred from performing Umrah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“From the first day of the decision to boycott Qatar, cutting all diplomatic and consular ties, Saudi Arabia ensured that the process of pilgrimage for Umrah and Hajj would be completely facilitated for Qatari nationals in accordance with procedures organized by the relevant authorities”, said the Saudi Embassy in Pakistan.

The embassy issued a statement in response to erroneous reports circulated in the Pakistani media, claiming that Qatari nationals are being barred from performing the Umrah in Saudi Arabia.

The statement dismissed the false reports as being allegations spread by the Government of Qatar, stressed the negative stance of Doha authorities, which prevented its citizens from performing the Haj and Umbrah in an attempt to mediatise the crisis it had caused.

“The allegations cited in the statement, which was issued by the Qatari Embassy in Islamabad, is but a desperate attempt to hold Saudi Arabia responsible for the inability of the Qatari pilgrims to perform the Umrah”, said the Saudi statement.

The statement described the reports in local Pakistani media as being inaccurate, reiterating the official stance of Riyadh, which welcomes all Qatari nationals to perform the Umrah.

Saudi Arabia insisted that it had already welcomed a number of Qatari nationals, who arrived via King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and provided them all facilities to perform the Umrah, alongside pilgrims from all the world.

Ding-Dong of words

As the ding dong of words between the authorities of the two countries continue, some expats have taken extra steps by applying and receiving visas from their home country, while Qatar residents are left confused as to what steps they need to take in order to reach Saudi Arabia this year.

Sayed , a long term resident from India, who regularly performed Umrah during Ramadan vented his frustration: “Yes I called the (local)Agent. They said they have contacted their agents in Saudi but nothing is clear at this time they have asked to apply directly on the website. I submitted online application from that link.

I have not received any call yet and I don’t know what the next step after submission. Qatari agents say they have no idea as its not through them.”

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