Around 10,000 Tajikistani nationals traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2023 to complete the Hajj pilgrimage, which is nearly three times higher than five years ago. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2,000-3,000 Tajikistanis made pilgrimages to the town of Mecca each year. This increase was first reported by the Asia-Plus news site.
One of the reasons for the growing number of pilgrims is the improvement of living standards in Tajikistan. In recent years citizens’ incomes have increased, meaning they have had the opportunity to go on pilgrimage more often.
Additionally, visa procedures for Tajikistan have been simplified by Saudi Arabia’s introduction of an e-visa system — which citizens of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan also have access to. Those going to Mecca can now obtain a tourist visa for $140 through the official Saudi e-visa website. Previously, Tajik citizens could travel to the Kingdom only after first obtaining a visa from the Saudi Arabian embassy in Dushanbe.
Another reason is that Hajj pilgrimages are becoming more popular culturally. Tajik society has become more religious in recent years, with some people now performing Hajj three or four times in their lifetime. However, in one of his greetings to the nation last year, the prominent Imam Ali Rahman expressed his concern that some people “make visiting the house of God a special family competition, and [feel obliged to] perform Hajj several times.”
Going on Hajj has also become cheaper. In recent years the price of a simple pilgrimage has decreased slightly, and it has become possible to travel through Uzbekistan and Russia. Tajik companies providing Umrah Hajj services this year are asking for between 17,000 somoni ($1,550) and 19,000 somoni ($1,750) per person. Previously this amount ranged from 20,000 somoni ($1,832) to 25,000 somoni ($2,290).