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After 9-Year Hiatus, Iranian Muslim Pilgrims Return to Saudi Arabia


For the first time in nine years, Iran has resumed sending Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia for Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, after receiving approval from Riyadh.

Two groups, each consisting of 85 people from Iran, began their journey to Saudi Arabia to perform what’s known as the Umrah.

The non-mandatory Islamic pilgrimage can be undertaken at any time of the year, unlike the Hajj which has specific dates according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

After years of diplomatic estrangement between Tehran and Riyadh, and an initial cancellation of the flights, the first departure was marked on Monday from Tehran’s main airport.

Representatives of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Iran, Abdullah bin Saud Al-Anzi, were reportedly in attendance.

Nearly two years ago, with mediation from China, Tehran and Riyadh reached an agreement to reopen embassies and exchange ambassadors, thereby restoring diplomatic ties.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran after protesters stormed its embassy in Tehran. This occurred amid waves of protest against Riyadh’s execution of a Shiite cleric.

Relations deteriorated further due to subsequent events, including missile and drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities and tankers in the Persian Gulf, carried out by Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen.

On Monday, Iran announced that it would operate two daily flights, each carrying 260 passengers, from various cities across the country.

The flights are set to continue until May 12 from different airports, with a total of 44 round trips scheduled, to fly 5,610 Iranian pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.