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Pakistani businesses linked to Haj, Umrah pick up after 2-year coronavirus hiatus

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani businesses associated with Hajj and Umrah have picked up this year as pilgrims and their families flock to Haj markets, as Saudi Arabia eases major pilgrimage for out-of-state participants after two years of stringent COVID-19 restrictions. has expanded.

Saudi Arabia has allowed one million people from both within and outside the Kingdom to perform this year’s Hajj, which was limited to only 1000 local residents in 2020.

Last year, the Kingdom limited the pilgrimage to 60,000 domestic participants, while the pre-coronavirus pandemic figures stood at 2.5 million. Pilgrims must not exceed 65 years of age this Hajj season, and must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In Pakistan, which has been given a Haj quota of 81,132 people, interested pilgrims are repeatedly visiting Haj markets to fulfill their list of about 40 essential items for Haj, including ihram clothes, prayer seats, Garland, skull cap, belt, slippers are included. , fragrance-free soap and pebble sachets.

For such shopping, Rawalpindi has Medina Market, which houses more than 200 shops in a multi-storey building in the narrow, packed streets of the city’s famous Raja Bazaar.

Muhammad Usman Nawab, who has been selling Hajj and Umrah items for the past 25 years, told Arab News: “The business was closed for two years, but with the revival of Hajj and Umrah it has started flourishing again.”

Pilgrims and their families continue to beat Rawalpindi’s traffic congestion as far as Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan to go to shops in the Haj market, especially to buy ihram, a white, two-piece seamless wrap, and other items.

“The prices of all items have almost doubled, and the number of customers has come down by 50 per cent,” the Nawab said. “Customers are unable to digest the skyrocketing prices and it is becoming a bit difficult for us. But we still thank Allah that our business has at least resumed.”

Malik Zahir, an aspiring pilgrim, told Arab News: “The price of everything has increased manifold, but I am still excited to go to the home of Allah with my family.” “Allah has invited me out of this small number… I am fortunate that He has invited us.”

Arshad Kamran, who has been dealing in Haj clothes and other related items for the last five years in Madina Market, said he was trying to offer cheaper prices at his shop.

“Inflation and taxes have doubled the prices of everything, but our business is a little different,” he told Arab News. “It is directly related to Allah because people have the same aspirations and passions.”

Arshad Mahmood, who performed Hajj in 2018 and was now buying an ihram for his younger brother, lamented the high prices of Hajj items.

“Everything was cheap (in 2018), but now inflation has skyrocketed,” he said, adding that at least the Medina Market made his Hajj shopping more convenient. “I don’t need to fiddle between different markets to complete my essentials list.”