First Iran group in nine years heads for Umrah

By Reuters
April 23, 2024
A representational showing pilgrims gathered around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Makkah — AFP/File

DUBAI: The first group of Iranian pilgrims in nine years made its way to Saudi Arabia on Monday for the Umrah, Iran’s official news agency reported, as a result of improving ties between the two Middle Eastern powers.


Iranian media had said in December that Saudi Arabia had lifted restrictions on Iranians wanting to perform Umrah but flights were delayed until now due to what Tehran called “technical problems”. In March 2023, China mediated an agreement under which Iran and Saudi Arabia restored full diplomatic relations that were cut since 2016 over Riyadh’s execution of a Shi’ite Muslim cleric and the subsequent storming of the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Before ties were restored, Iranians had only been able to perform the haj pilgrimage. The Umrah can be performed at any time and is not deemed compulsory for Muslims. Saudi Ambassador to Iran Abdullah bin Saud al-Anzi was present at Tehran’s main airport during the farewell ceremony held for the 85 pilgrims.