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JSTA calls for improving selection of pilgrimage candidates

Jordan pilgrimage quota is 7,000, of which around two-thirds are young or middle-aged — stakeholders

By Ahmed Bani Mustafa - Jan 09,2019 - Last updated at Jan 09,2019

Pilgrims walk towards their tents in Mina ahead of annual Hajj near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, earlier this year. Awqaf Minister Abdul Nasser Abul Bassal on Tuesday directed the ministry to ‘improve’ the system for choosing Jordanian pilgrims. However, stakeholders worry this might decrease the number of elderly selected for the visa programme (Reuters photo)

AMMAN — Young people are already a majority among Jordanian pilgrims to Mecca, and reviewing the age category would affect elderly people waiting to undertake Hajj (the greater pilgrimage to Mecca), stakeholders said on Wednesday.

Awqaf Minister Abdul Nasser Abul Bassal on Tuesday directed the Awqaf Ministry’s Hajj Department to “improve” the system for choosing Jordanian pilgrims, the Jordan News Agency, Petra reported.

The request aimed to diversify the ages of those selected to include more youth in Jordan’s official quota, which amounts to 7,000 pilgrimage visas per year, according to Petra.

The Jordan Society of Travel Agents’ (JSTA) secretary of the treasury, Kamal Abu Diab, said that around 70 per cent of Jordanian pilgrims are already young or middle-aged people.

Some 40 per cent go on pilgrimage through quotas that are not based on age, such the quotas given to the army, the teachers association and students of Sharia (Islamic law).

The quota for elderly people stands at 60 per cent. However, young people account for half of that quota as companions must travel with the elderly, and are counted in the quota, Diab told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.

“A close look at these figures shows that the elderly category [of the quota] is a low percentage in the total quota for Jordan,” Diab said.

Diab also called on the ministry to modify the application process, so candidates would not have to register every year.

People should be able to apply one time for several seasons, instead of having to repeat the process every year, he proposed, adding that people who have done the pilgrimage before should not be allowed to apply. 

On the other hand, Diab, who is also the JSTA’s spokesperson, expressed his appreciation for the ministry’s efforts to improve its Hajj services and procedures for Jordanians.

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