Bahrain names 49 pilgrimage operators, warns against abuses

October 6, 2010

Adnan Al Qattan

Bahrain has named 49 haj (pilgrimage) operators and urged would-be pilgrims to register with them to avoid problems both in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“We will not look into any complaint about possible abuses or issues with an unregistered tour operator,” the justice and Islamic ministry warned. “People planning to perform haj should be well aware about the status of their operators and avoid wading into problems by keeping away from those who have not been endorsed by the ministry.”

According to the ministry’s list, published in the local media, a41 operators will be taking Bahraini or Gulf nationals and eight have been designated to sign up foreigners.

The division aims to ease travel, visa and stay procedures at the Bahraini and Saudi borders and in Saudi Arabia.

Bahrainis and Gulf nationals do not require visas to enter Saudi Arabia and processing their papers is usually smooth and fast.

However, foreigners have to undergo a more vigorous scrutiny at the 25-kilometre King Fahad Causeway, the only terrestrial link between the two neighbouring kingdoms, that often results in long delays.

Saudi authorities, wary of abuses, have repeatedly warned that they would not allow unregistered operators to reach or enter Makkah, the site of the annual pilgrimage rituals.

Hundreds of Bahrainis and Bahrain-based foreigners suffered problems last year after their unregistered operators took less travel routes to reach Makkah and avoid Saudi checkpoints.

In one case, would-be pilgrims were abandoned in a remote area after their buses drove off with their luggage to avoid a police checkpoint.

“We urge would-be pilgrims to sign a binding contract with the tour operators and to make sure that are insured against accidents,” Adnan Al Qattan, the head of Bahrain’s official haj delegation, said on Wednesday. “We are ready to help, but only when the case involves a registered tour operator. At the same time, would-be pilgrims should be well aware of their rights and the non-existence of a contract would make looking into complaints difficult,” he said.

Al Qattan said that increasing the number of tour operators cannot be achieved unless the Saudi authorities agreed to bolster the quota of Bahrain-based pilgrims.

“The official quota right now is 5,000 and we have contacted the competent Saudi authorities to increase it to 12,000 in order to accommodate a larger number of people planning to perform the pilgrimage,” he said. “We are optimistic about the Saudi decision, but we have to wait until we receive it.”

Saudi Arabia introduced quotas for all countries to ensure that the pilgrimage locations are not dangerously overcrowded.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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