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ISLAMABAD: Pakistani officials and pilgrims on Sunday praised the Saudi authorities for their efforts to make Umrah more accessible to Muslims across the world, calling the recent reduction in the cost of comprehensive insurance by 63 percent a “generous gesture.”

Last week, the kingdom’s ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced a major decrease in the insurance rate for pilgrims from SR235 to SR87.

The decision was part of several steps taken by the Saudi authorities to facilitate Umrah pilgrims, including an extension in the visa validity period from 30 to 90 days and allowing women to perform pilgrimage without a male guardian.

“The Saudi government is to be praised for their efforts in making Umrah more accessible to pilgrims from abroad,” Hamzah Gilani, a spokesperson for the Pakistani consulate in Jeddah.

“This is an incredibly generous gesture, indicative of the Saudi government’s commitment to uphold religious traditions and provide a safe environment to those who seek spiritual fulfillment through Umrah.”

Muhammad Umar Butt, a spokesperson for the religious affairs ministry, recalled the major steps taken by the kingdom to facilitate Hajj and Umrah pilgrims in recent months, saying they would help improve the quality of the spiritual journey for Muslims living across the world, Arab News reported .

“These are commendable steps and show that the kingdom wants to improve the experience of pilgrims and reduce their expenses to make the journey affordable for all Muslims,” he said.

Osama Ahmed from Lahore, who arrived in Makkah on Saturday, said the reduction in insurance cost had been announced at a time when everything was getting expensive around the world.

“The reduction itself may have a limited impact on the overall cost,” he said, “but it shows the Saudi commitment to facilitate pilgrims at a time when the cost of everything is going upwards.”

Farzana Saeed, a pilgrim from Gujranwala, praised the Saudi government for taking care of the holiest Muslim cities and providing necessary facilities to all pilgrims.

“We have been informed that despite the reduction in the insurance cost, the coverage benefits offered by the Saudi authorities will remain the same,” she said. “It is so heartening to see how the Saudi government is taking steps to the ease pilgrimage for everyone.”

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