Local travel operators have increased weekend Umrah package rates from SR 90 to SR 160 for each pilgrim from Riyadh in anticipation of the expected increased demand during Ramadan.
The Supreme Court called on Muslims in the Kingdom to look out for the new moon either with the naked eye or through telescopes on Thursday evening and inform the nearest court accordingly.
The peak of the pilgrimage season, which will begin from Wednesday, will last until the end of Ramadan.
This year the peak season coincides with the summer holidays.
A large number of pilgrims including Saudis are expected to perform Umrah this season.
A return fare from Riyadh to Makkah by luxury coach including accommodation in the holy city will cost SR 160 per pilgrim and there will be an additional charge of SR 40 if the pilgrim opts to visit the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah on the way.
For an additional payment of SR 100 per pilgrim, accommodation can be upgraded to four-star hotels in the holy city.
According to a spokesman from Al-Rush, a travel operator in the city, the weekend package to Makkah and Madinah starts at 4 p.m. from Riyadh on Wednesday and finishes on midnight Friday.
Each family is given a large room while the bachelors are accommodated on a sharing basis with three pilgrims in each room. Children under 12 pay half.
An employee at travel agency Anver Al-Shareefaine said a five-day package to Makkah and Madinah including travel and accommodation would cost a pilgrim SR250.
The offer includes a two-day stay in a three-star hotel in Madinah and another two days in similar accommodation in Makkah.
The package begins on Monday and ends on Friday. The pilgrims would leave Makkah after Friday prayers so that they reach Riyadh around midnight.
Pilgrims are given an option to choose five star accommodation for an additional payment.
There are nearly 200 Umrah travel operators spread out in the capital but they are largely concentrated in the city center of Batha.
During the journey, coaches stop over at three points for Maghrib, Isha and dinner and at the meeqat in Taif to allow pilgrims to put on their ihram (the two pieces of white cloth that each male pilgrim must wear prior to performing Haj or Umrah).
Pilgrims are given half an hour to don their ihrams at the meeqat point so pilgrims can offer their Fajr prayers in Makkah.
The Dawah centers in the city are organizing Umrah packages free-of-charge to Muslims who are singles in the capital.
According to Moulavi Ramadan from the Rawdah Center, there will be weekly trips to Makkah for these particular pilgrims.
A leading hotelier in Makkah told Arab News the majority of the pilgrims are from the Kingdom as well as Gulf countries.
Other pilgrims include those from countries such as Turkey, Algeria, Iraq, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia.
He added: “This year there are less people from Syria, possibly due to unrest in the country.”
According to sources, hotels in Makkah are already booked for the Ramadan season.
The occupancy rate in Makkah hotels will reach 100 percent from the beginning of the holy month, he added.
The demand for accommodation is high in Makkah because of the ongoing development work following the demolition of old buildings in the holy city.
During the latter part of the holy month, rooms in five-star hotels are sold for SR 31,000 to SR 40,000 including suhur (meal taken before the start of the fast) and iftar (breaking of the fast) meals for 10 days.
Local hotels in Madinah in cooperation with local tour operators have arranged city tours to historical sites for the benefit of those pilgrims who come to Madinah to visit the Prophet's Mosque.
Places of interest include Quba Mosque, the first mosque built by Prophet (peace be upon him) in Madinah; Qiblatain Mosque where the Qibla was shifted from Baitul Muqadis (Al-Aqsa Mosque) to the Holy Kaaba when the Prophet (pbuh) was conducting prayers; and the graveyard on the foothills of Mount Uhud where the bodies of martyrs from the time of the Prophet (pbuh) were buried.