For many Dutch Muslims, their long-awaited trip to Mecca threatens to fall into the water. A few weeks before the start of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage, the government of Saudi Arabia announced that the trip can only be booked this year through an official government platform. Trips that have already been booked through Dutch travel agencies will no longer take place.
The Hajj is an important tradition in Islam. Any Muslim who is healthy enough and can afford it must complete the pilgrimage once in his or her life. Travelers often prepare for the trip for months, which they have often saved for a long time.
Due to limited capacity, there is a maximum number of participants for each country. For the Netherlands this is about 4700. Since 2003, these places could only be booked through travel companies that are officially recognized by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj.
Last week, a month before the start of the Hajj, the government announced that it would completely change this policy. This year, the Hajj can only be booked through the official government travel agency Motawif. Interested parties could register on their website. The places will be divided among the registered participants via a lottery. There is no other way to get a visa for the pilgrimage. This is a setback for the Dutch hajj travel industry, which was already busy preparing for the annual trip.
Due to the pandemic, the pilgrimage for Muslims outside Saudi Arabia in 2020 and 2021 could not take place. As a result, the waiting lists at the travel agencies were much longer than usual. People who had obtained a coveted spot through a travel agency are now no longer assured of their trip. On the Motawif website they are advised to “contact the tour company and request their money back”.
Last year, the Hajj continued with 60,000 pilgrims. Swipe to see the difference with 2019, when 3 million pilgrims were allowed to come: