All roads lead to Makkah ahead of Eid
More than 150 buses packed with Umrah pilgrims are set to leave for Makkah and Madinah from the capital on Thursday.
A large number of pilgrims will also be leaving for the same destination from the Eastern Province, while thousands of citizens will travel to these cities to spend Eid with their relatives.
Local travel operators have increased weekend Umrah packages to SR220 from SR90 per pilgrim from Riyadh in anticipation of higher demand.
The peak season also coincides with the summer holidays this year.
The Supreme Court stipulates sighting the crescent, either with the naked eye or through a telescope, to determine on which day Eid will fall.
As such, a large number of vacationers, including Saudis, have shown up at Makkah, exacerbating the crowding problem.
There are nearly 275 Umrah travel operators spread out in the capital, with most concentrated in the Batha area.
A special department assigned for overseeing the functioning of mosques, which falls under the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance, has instructed imams to ensure they can accommodate an increased number of worshippers performing Eid prayer at their local mosques.
Outbound regional and international flights are all booked and domestic airfares have skyrocketed.
Mohammed Ali, an accountant working at a private establishment, said that he has given up on the idea of going home because of the high airfares.
According to a spokesman from Al-Rush, a travel operator in the city, the weekend package to Makkah and Madinah starts at 4 p.m. from Riyadh on Thursday and ends on Saturday at midnight.
An officer at Anver Al-Shareefaine, a travel agent, said a five-day package to Makkah and Madinah, including travel and accommodation, will cost a pilgrim only SR350.
Hotels in Makkah and Madinah, meanwhile, are packed.
Demand for accommodation is even more critical in Makkah thanks to ongoing development work following the demolition of old buildings in the holy city.
A leading hotelier in Makkah told Arab News that hotels have reached 100 percent occupancy at the end of the holy month.
“Accommodation at five-star hotels will cost anywhere between SR31,000 and SR40,000 during the latter part of Ramadan, which includes two meals,” said one hotelier.
The General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), meanwhile, has confirmed that Jeddah’s airport has implemented measures to streamline pilgrim traffic.