The Ministry of Social Solidarity announced on Tuesday that the first batch of Egyptian pilgrims that were sent by NGOs is set to return to Cairo on Thursday after performing their Hajj (pilgrimage) rituals in Saudi Arabia.
The batch — which comprises 225 Egyptian pilgrims that arrived in the kingdom on 2 July — is scheduled to arrive in Cairo coming from King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on Thursday, a statement by the ministry read.
A total of 3,000 Egyptian pilgrims — pided into two groups — traveled from Egypt under the sponsorship of various NGOs.
The first group included 1,100 pilgrims — who traveled first to Al-Medina and then to the Holy city of Mecca to perform their Hajj rituals — is planned to return to Cairo from King Abdulaziz International Airport.
The second group, however, includes 1,900 pilgrims — who started their trip from Mecca first and then traveled to Al-Medina — is scheduled to return to Cairo from Prince Mohammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Al-Medina, the ministry added.
The second group is set to be transported to Al-Medina on Wednesday 13 July and will be staying there till next week, the statement quoted Ayman Abdel-Mawgod, the assistant minister of social solidarity and head of the Hajj Mission for NGOs.
Last week, EgyptAir said it will operate as of Tuesday 114 flights — 80 from Jeddah and 34 from Al-Medina — to carry back home nearly 16,000 pilgrims from Saudi Arabia, according to Egyptian state news agency MENA.
Slightly over 35,000 Egyptians performed their Hajj rituals this year.
In 2020, the pandemic prompted Saudi authorities to allow only 1,000 domestic pilgrims to participate in the yearly Hajj — one of the world’s largest religious gatherings. The number, however, increased to 60,000 fully vaccinated citizens and residents chosen through a lottery in 2021.
This year, Saudi Arabia allowed a total of 899,353 pilgrims to perform the rituals, 119,434 of which are from inside the kingdom.
However, the number is still lower than pre-pandemic rates. Some 2.5 Muslims participated in 2019’s Hajj season.
All able Muslims are required to perform a Hajj — one of the five pillars of Islam — once in their lifetime. The Hajj consists of a series of religious rites that are completed over five days in Islam’s holiest city, Mecca, and the surrounding areas of western Saudi Arabia.