The Ministry of Interior has announced that the deadline for Saudi residents to acquire permits to attend this year's Hajj is next Wednesday, February 5, 2003. The deadline for Hajj visas for the 1423 pilgrimage for those overseas was yesterday, January 28.
Meanwhile, a two-day symposium opened yesterday in Makkah to discuss problems leading to overcrowding of pilgrims at certain of the Holy Sites. On Monday, a contingent of 5,129 Iraqi pilgrims arrived at the Ar'ar border post aboard 292 buses; they were provided with all necessary services. On Friday, the Ministry announced that for the first time special awards will be given for the best media coverage of the annual pilgrimage, with plaques going to the winning Saudi newspaper, and to the best non-Saudi Arab newspaper, and cash prizes for the best reporter, the best human-interest story, and the best photograph. The prizes will be distributed at a ceremony on Feb. 21 to be attended by all media personnel covering Hajj.