ISLAMABAD  -    The number of pilgrims performing Umrah in the holy city of Makkah has so far exceeded 6.1 million, up 7 percent compared to the previous year, according to the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Haj and Umrah.

The number of issued visas is 6,730,109, up 6 percent from last year’s 6,314,448, the Ministry said in a new report.

According to Saudi Gazette, the current 2018-2019 season, which began earlier than usual in mid-September, is expected to see an increase in the number of Muslims performing Umrah, the minor pilgrimage undertaken by Muslims outside of the major Haj pilgrimage.

The highest number of Umrah pilgrims by nationality came from Pakistan. As many as 1,371,544 Pakistanis performed Umrah as of May 5.

They were followed by 894,571 Indonesians, 595,429 Indians, 422,365 Egyptians, 292,498 Turkish, 274,109 Yemenis, 266,333 Algerians, 262,109 Malaysians, 231,342 Iraqis and 169,529 Jordanians.

The Ministry said that until the end of Shaban (May 5), 6,136,139 pilgrims from around the world performed the minor pilgrimage of Umrah, which is an increase of 7 percent compared to the same month last year when the number of pilgrims was 5,719,398.

The number of issued visas until the end of Shaban was 6,730,109 while it was 6 per cent less at 6,314,448 last year.

As many as 5,589,537 pilgrims left the Kingdom after performing their rites by May 5.

The pilgrims stayed 13 days in Makkah on average and 8 days in Madinah.

Last year, the average stay of Umrah pilgrims in Makkah was for 9 days and in Madinah for 5 days.

Most pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom via air with a total of 5,486,345 pilgrims while 567,976 entered by land and 81,818 pilgrims via seaports.

According to the Ministry, 426,986 pilgrims were under 15 years old, 439,835 pilgrims between 15-24 years, 775,937 between 25-34 years, 993,922 pilgrims 35-44 years, 1,197,432 between 45-54 years, and 1,293,615 between 55-64 years. There were 1,008,412 pilgrims who were above 65 years.

The Ministry said that 3,190,533 of the pilgrims were male while female pilgrims numbered 3,539,576.

Out of 6,730,109 visas, 2,155,231 pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom with their families and 4,574,878 pilgrims came into the Kingdom alone.

The variety of nationalities entering the Kingdom played a role in the diversity of languages with Urdu, Malay, Hindi, Arabic and Turkish becoming the top five languages spoken by the pilgrims.

“The Umrah season is open most of the year so that more Muslims can visit and perform the minor pilgrimage,” the Ministry said.

The number of Saudi Arabian employees within Umrah companies and institutions has also marked a significant increase of 120 per cent this year compared to last year. This Shaban, there were 10,713 Saudi Arabian employees including 8,862 males and 1,851 females compared to 4,865 employees, including 4,220 males and 645 females, in the same month last year.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Haj and Umrah launched a new interactive website to provide easy access to more than 30 of its services to pilgrims in Arabic, English and French and with more languages to be added in the future.