Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Wednesday, August 26, 1998 Published at 00:56 GMT 01:56 UK

World: Middle East

Saudi Arabia imposes pilgrimage limit

Pilgrims in Mecca wearing their ritual white robes

By Gulf Correspondent Frank Gardner

For hundreds of thousands of Saudi pilgrims, the next Hajj pilgrimage in March will be their last until the year 2004.

Under a new government regulation, approved by the country's religious authorities, all residents of Saudi Arabia will now be limited to one Hajj pilgrimage every five years.

[ image: Pilgrims circling Kaaba, a cubic stone structure inside the Grand Mosque]
Pilgrims circling Kaaba, a cubic stone structure inside the Grand Mosque
The same restriction has applied to the kingdom's estimated six million foreign residents for some years now.

Pilgrims coming from abroad are already limited to a quota system, based on the total Muslim population in their country.

But a succession of recent Hajj tragedies, coupled with growing numbers of pilgrims from abroad, has clearly convinced the authorities that more drastic measures needed to be taken.

[ image: A fire killed more than 300  pilgrims last year]
A fire killed more than 300 pilgrims last year
In April this year, two million pilgrims - more than half of them from abroad - converged on Mecca to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which is the religious duty of every able-bodied Muslim.

Despite elaborate safety measures, 119 pilgrims were killed when a crowd broke into a stampede.

Saudi-based journalists predict that the new limit is bound to be unpopular with some Saudis, who view unrestricted access to the Hajj as their religious right.

But the announcement made no mention of limiting citizens from performing the Umrah, a minor version of the Hajj which can be made at any time during the year.

And, if it helps make the Hajj a safer undertaking, journalists believe the move will be broadly welcomed by most citizens.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

09 Apr 98 | Middle East
Hajj pilgrims die in Saudi stampede

07 Apr 98 | Middle East
Muslims mark the end of the pilgrimage

Internet Links

Hajj & Umrah

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Safety chief deplores crash speculation

Iraq oil-for-food aid extended

Israel demands soccer sex scandal inquiry

Israeli PM's plane in accident

Jordan police stop trades unionists prayers

New Israeli raid in southern Lebanon

New demand over PLO terror list

Earthquake hits Iran

New UN decision on Iraq approved

Algerian president pledges reform