Hajj Registration Turnout Declines in Yemen

Sheba Intelligence | 2024-05-11 12:13 PM UTC


Thousands of Yemenis register yearly to join the pilgrimage journey to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. In previous years, the number of applicants exceeded the quota given to Yemen, which means not all applicants were selected. That left many pilgrimage seekers sad and disappointed.

This is no longer the case. The number of Hajj applicants in Yemen has declined this year, forcing the Hajj agencies to extend the registration deadline. According to owners of Hajj agencies in Yemen, this has happened for the first time.

Ismail Ahmed, an owner of a travel agency in Yemen, said the demand for Hajj registration this year is low compared to last year.

He added, "The registration process in previous seasons used to end within a month or even 20 days. All agencies used to register their prescribed quotas within three or four weeks. However, this year's Hajj registration continued for three months, and the Yemeni Ministry of Endowments  extended the registration process to allow agencies to complete their quotas."

According to the Ministry of Endowments, Yemen's quota is 24,255 pilgrims, distributed among 247 tourist and travel agencies.

According to Ahmed, the decline in the number of Yemenis registered for Hajj this year is due to the increased Hajj cost, which rose from 11900 Saudi riyals to 14,800 Saudi riyals. Such a rise in the Hajj cost caused a financial burden for Hajj seekers in Yemen.

Fuad Qasem, a 46-year-old real estate agent, said he planned last year to perform Hajj this year along with his wife. However, the rise in the fees forced him to abandon his Hajj plan.

He told Sheba Intelligence, "Our Hajj budget was 25000 Saudi riyal. We thought there would be no change in the Hajj fees this year. Once we knew about the rise in the fees, we decided not to go."

Qasem added, "Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam, and performing this worship is one of my main goals in my life. But if it continues to be expensive, I and millions of people in Yemen will not be able to perform it. Every year, there has been an increase in the Hajj fees since the war started in Yemen in 2015."

Last year, the Ansar Allah (Houthi) group accused Saudi Arabia of creating difficulties and obstacles for Yemeni pilgrims. Najeeb Al-Aji, the Houthi-appointed Minister of Endowments, said at the time Saudi Arabia "doubled the suffering" of Yemenis and raised the Hajj costs three times compared to the pre-war costs.

Amid the rising Hajj fees, the deepening economic troubles, and the continued military conflict, performing Hajj remains a far-fetched dream for millions of Yemenis.