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Iranian Muslims made their annual Umrah pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia on Monday. Due to a disagreement between Tehran and Riyadh, they had been prohibited from making this pilgrimage for nearly 10 years.

According to the official news agency IRNA, “The first group of Umrah pilgrims departed Iran for Saudi Arabia through the Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran.”

Since Tehran and Riyadh decided to re-establish relations and reopen their respective embassies after more than nine years in a deal mediated by China last year, this was the first group of Iranians to undertake the pilgrimage.

Iranians were not permitted to perform the Umrah until now, but they were permitted to return for the Hajj pilgrimage last year.

The two countries saw a breakup of relations due to attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran during protests against Riyadh’s execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

In recent months, Iranian state media announced that pilgrims would be able to travel to Makkah for Umrah; however, they repeatedly attributed delays to technical issues. A total of 5,720 Iranian Umrah pilgrims were expected to travel to Saudi Arabia this year, according to IRNA.

Abdullah bin Saud al-Anazi, the Saudi ambassador to Tehran, was at the airport on Monday along with a number of Iranian officials to see off the first group of pilgrims.

Unlike the hajj, which is one of the five pillars of Islam and occurs on certain dates based on the lunar calendar, Muslims can perform the umrah pilgrimage to Mecca at any time of the year.



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