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Pakistani businesses linked to Hajj and Umrah resume after 2-year coronavirus hiatus

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Hajj and Umrah-related businesses have picked up again this year as pilgrims and their families flock to Hajj markets after Saudi Arabia dramatically expanded the key pilgrimage to participants from outside the Kingdom after two years of strict COVID-19 restrictions.

Saudi Arabia has allowed 1 million people from inside and outside the Kingdom to perform this year’s Hajj, which was limited to just 1,000 local residents in 2020.

Last year, the Kingdom limited the pilgrimage to 60,000 domestic participants, down from 2.5 million before the coronavirus pandemic. Pilgrims for this Hajj season should not be over 65 and fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

In Pakistan, which has been given a quota of 81,132 people for the Hajj, aspiring pilgrims frequent Hajj bazaars to complete their list of around 40 items needed for the pilgrimage, including ihram clothes, carpets prayer beads, rosaries, caps, belts, sandals. , unscented soaps and packets of pebbles.

A favorite spot for this type of shopping is Madinah Market in Rawalpindi, which comprises over 200 shops in a multi-storey building in the narrow, crowded streets of the city’s famous Raja Bazaar.

“Business was dead for two years, but it started to boom again with the revival of Hajj and Umrah,” Muhammad Usman Nawab, who has been selling Hajj and Umrah items for 25 years, told Arab News.

Pilgrims and their families from as far away as Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan beat the rush of Rawalpindi traffic to visit the shops of Hajj Bazaar, especially to buy ihram, a seamless two-piece white wrapper , and other items.

“Prices for all items almost doubled and customer numbers fell below 50%,” Nawab said. “Customers are not ready to stomach the exorbitant prices and it becomes a bit difficult for us. But we still thank Allah that our business has at least begun to revive.

“The cost of everything has gone up considerably, but I’m still happy to go to the House of Allah with my family,” Malik Zaheer, an aspiring pilgrim, told Arab News. “Allah invited me out of this small number… I’m lucky he invited us.”

Arshad Kamran, who has been selling Hajj clothes and other related items at the Madinah market for five years, said he tries to offer affordable prices in his shop.

“Inflation and taxes have doubled the prices of everything, but our business is a bit different,” he told Arab News. “He is directly related to Allah because people’s aspirations and passion are the same.”

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 market in Medina made his Hajj shopping more convenient. “I don’t need to shuttle between different markets to complete my required list of items.”

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