A new Haj rule that prohibits female pilgrims under the age of 45 from travelling to Mecca without a male relative is likely to further decrease the number of Bahraini travellers, which has dropped by 50 percent in the past nine months due to high costs and several terrorist attacks in the city, according to travel operators in the country.
The new rule was one of 58 guidelines distributed to tourism companies in Bahrain by the Justice, Endowments, and Islamic Affairs Ministry, reported Gulf Daily News. It requires the women to travel with a close male relative such as a husband, father, brother, or son despite female pilgrims having allocated hotel and dining areas as well as separate queues during Haj.
Bahraini authorities said they were obliged to follow the new regulation, which came from Saudi Arabia, but said it could bring down the number of women pilgrims, who account for one-third of Bahraini travellers every year.
“We do not know why such a regulation (has been introduced), but we have to abide by it. Numbers are already lower compared with previous years as the cost for Haj is rocketing. Living costs in Mecca and other expenses are already an obstacle to many people to go on Haj as they cannot afford it and we learn the caravans are not achieving their target numbers,” said former Haj Medical Mission co-ordination committee chairman Dr. Ali Al Baqqara.
Travel operators also expressed concern over a possible drop in the number of female pilgrims.
“We have a lot of women pilgrims who come in as groups to go to Haj, which includes women under the age of 45,” said Sayed Jawad, owner of Al Asaad Caravan tourism firm. “By limiting them from travelling without their husbands or close relatives accompanying them, we may see the numbers go down further this year. Almost 30 percent of pilgrims are women under the age of 45 and this regulation could bring this number down at least by 15 percent.”
Source: Arabian Business