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After 22 years, India mulling resuming sea route option for Haj

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Haj via Sea Route

Mumbai, April 14 : Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Friday said the Centre is “actively considering” a plan to resume — after 22 years — the use of the Arabian Sea route to ferry Haj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and consultations with the Shipping Ministry are already on.

He said the “revolutionary and pilgrim-friendly decision” of sea travel will cut down travel expenses by nearly half compared with air fares. The use of the sea route between Mumbai and Jeddah for Haj was discontinued in 1995.

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“A high-level committee, formed by the government to frame the Haj Policy 2018 as per the Supreme Court’s 2012 order, is exploring the issue for sending pilgrims via the sea route to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia,” the Minister of State for Minority Affairs said at a training programme at the Haj House here.

The committee will soon submit its report to the government.

At present, Haj pilgrims travel by air from 21 points across the country.

The minister said another advantage was that ships nowadays are modern and well equipped to ferry 4,000 to 5,000 persons at one go.

“They can cover the 2,300-odd nautical miles between Mumbai and Jeddah in just two-three days. Earlier, ships used to take 12 to 15 days to cover this distance,” he said.

He said the new Haj policy is aimed at making the entire pilgrimage process easier and transparent. Facilities for pilgrims will be the focus of the new policy.

In 2016, as many as 99,903 pilgrims went to Jeddah for Haj through the Haj Committee of India, besides nearly 36,000 persons who went through private tour operators.

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In 2017, a total of 1,70,025 persons will go for Haj from India, including 1,25,025 through the Haj Committee and 45,000 others through private operators.

This year, he said, 129,196 applications were received online.

The Ministry of Minority Affairs along with other agencies has started preparations for the biggest annual pilgrimage very early in coordination with various agencies, he added. The aim is to provide world class facilities to Haj pilgrims.

With an increase of 34,005 in India’s annual Haj quota by host country Saudi Arabia, announced last year, all Indian states will benefit for this year’s pilgrimage, Naqvi said.

“The decision was taken during the signing of a bilateral annual Haj agreement between the two countries at Jeddah on January 11. It is the biggest increase in the Haj quota for India after many years,” the Minister said.

More than 500 trainers from different states are participating in the three-day training programme that deals with various dos and don’ts to be adhered to during the pilgrimage. They are enlightened about transport, accommodation and laws in Saudi Arabia, among other things.

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Officials from the Haj Committee of India, Saudi Arabia Consulate, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, Saudi Airlines, Air India, customs and immigration departments and doctors are involved in the endeavour.

These trainers will further train prospective pilgrims at different camps across the country.

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Saudi Arabia’s nod to Haj pilgrimage via sea route from India

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Haj by Sea

The Indian government’s proposal to send Haj pilgrims through the sea route has got the green signal from the Saudi Arabian government, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Monday.

The discussion on reviving the sea route came up during the signing of the annual bilateral Haj agreement for 2018 between India and Saudi Arabia in the presence of Naqvi and Saudi Minister for Haj and Umrah Mohammad Saleh bin Taher in Mecca on Sunday.

Naqvi said officials from both the countries will discuss all the necessary formalities and technicalities so that Haj pilgrimage through the sea route can commence in the coming years.

“Sending pilgrims through ships will help cut down travel expenses significantly. It will be a revolutionary, pro-poor, pilgrim-friendly decision,” Naqvi said.

The ferrying of Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterway was stopped in 1995.

The Minister said that another advantage with ships available these days is they are modern and well-equipped to ferry 4,000 to 5,000 persons at a time. They can cover the 2,300-odd nautical miles one-side distance between Mumbai and Jeddah in just three to four days.

The old ships used to take 12 to 15 days to cover this distance.

Naqvi said that last year he had discussed the option to revive sea route for Haj pilgrimage with Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari.

He said that Haj 2018 has been made fully digital.

On the issue of Indian Muslim women going to Haj for the first time without mehram (male guardian), the Minister said that separate accommodation and transport has been arranged for these women.

Also, female Haj Assistants will be deployed for their help.

More than 1,300 women have applied to go for Haj without mehram and all of these women will be exempted from the lucky draw. These women would be travelling in groups of four or more women, according to the new Haj policy of India.

So far, around 3.59 lakh applications have been received for Haj 2018, against the quota of around 1.70 lakh pilgrims.

“For the first time, we have given option to Haj pilgrims to opt for another embarkation point. This will ensure that there is no financial burden on Haj pilgrims even after removal of Haj subsidy. This decision has received overwhelming response,” Naqvi said.

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Extreme Adventures you should try, in India!

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Ladakh srinagar kashmir

Thinking of adventures, what comes to your mind first? Bungee jumping off the side of a cliff, Heli-skiing in sub-zero temperatures or a breathtaking hot-air balloon safari or white water rafting down some wild rapids?

Today, routine getaways and run-of-the-mill vacations have been replaced by experiences that are more authentic, as travellers are seeking adventures, thrills and a closer relationship with different cultures. The millennial traveller aims to be a part of unique experiences and adventure tourism has therefore been catering to tourists who prefer venturing out into the unknown rather than joining the crowd. Having said that, many of today’s travellers are also not aware that what they aim to find in other countries can be found within India, at a level that they may not find elsewhere.

So check out the top 5 adrenaline-pumping activities you can enjoy in India, with maximum thrill and minimum planning.

Heli-Skiing at Manali and Gulmarg

If rushing down a mountain, navigating treacherous twists and turns is what you enjoy, then take it a step higher with heli-skiing down one of the numerous mountains of Manali or Gulmarg. With secluded mountaintops and landings at over 10,000 feet, you are guaranteed an adrenaline rush that will get you forever hooked. The option of being flown by helicopter to the top of the mountain will give you a chance to experience spectacular heights and amazing slopes that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible. Definitely one of the most unique experiences you’ll ever have!

Hot Air Ballooning over Udaipur

Get up close to a magnificent sunrise or sunset with the most romantic adventure possible, as you explore the spectacular forts, hidden palaces, breathtaking terrain and unique sights of Udaipur on a hot-air balloon.

White Water Rafting in Rishikesh

When just a normal vacation isn’t enough, it’s time to go off the beaten track with a whitewater rafting adventure in Rishikesh, one of the most sought-after destinations for the sport. While here, you can have your fill of heart-stopping rapids and an exciting boating experience. Rishikesh also has the highest bungee jumping spot in India, and is the only destination with a fixed platform to dive from.

Sky Diving Deesa, Gujarat

For a daredevil spirit, there’s nothing more exciting than diving from a height of 10,000 feet in the sky, and when it comes to skydiving, India has it all from tandem to parachuting! So with plenty of excellent ridge soaring and some fantastic scenic skydiving options, take your pick from Deesa in Gujarat, Dhana, Madhya Pradesh, Pondicherry or Mysore for the experience of a lifetime!

Trekking across the Spiti Valley

A five-day adventure and a 55 km trek, Spiti Valley is definitely not for the faint-hearted. With treacherous mountain paths, sub-zero temperatures and lack of basic necessities, like hot water (or sometimes even water) and adequate lodgings, this adventure will test your spirit like nothing else. On the flip side however, the breathtaking views, gorgeous landscapes and the ability to truly enjoy nature will make this entire journey truly worth it.

Caving in Meghalaya

For an enthusiastic caver, there can be nothing more satisfying than exploring the insides of the most exciting caves in Meghalaya. With the deepest and longest caves in South Asia, Meghalaya is amongst the world’s top 10 destinations and promises an experience par excellence.

“While many may not be aware, India is a fantastic place for adventure sports and activities, so much so that it also attracts travellers and adventure junkies from outside India,” says Viren Batra, co-founder of Nirvana Travel. “Wherever you may go, there’s something for everyone in every state, making India one of the best places to enjoy vacations with a focus on adventure!”

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Culture and Heritage sites major attraction among Tourists

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Culture and Heritage sites

Culture and Heritage has always been a major object of travel for several years. Even today most traveler look at exploring the Cultural and heritage of aspect of the place they visit. The Traveler’s like to understand a country or regions’ culture, lifestyle of people, history of the country, art & architecture and any other elements that are important part of day to day life.

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Thailand’s best cultural World Heritage Sites

Cultural tourism as defined by the World Tourism -“trips, whose main or concomitant goal is visiting the sites and events whose cultural and historical value has turn them being a part of the cultural heritage of a community”.

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Taj Mahal Agra

In recent years, ‘culture’ has been rediscovered as an important marketing tool to attract travellers who have special interests in heritage and arts. As we see the growth pattern in the travel industry, Culture and Heritage tourism has always played a major role and is one of the most important segments of the tourism industry. Cultural tourism forms a base for most travel planners.

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World Heritage Sites of Nepal

Cultural tourism has a positive economic and social impact. This segment also helps in preservation of cultural heritage and monuments. Also facilitates tourism in rural areas and helps in boosting their economic and social growth.

Culture can be split into two circles:

Inner Circle – represents the more traditional or basic elements of Cultural tourism and can be split into Tourism of art heritage – which relates to cultural assets and products of the past and tourism of art which relates to Presentation of visual arts, modern architecture, literature etc.

Outer Circle – Is the way of life or style of living of the population in a particular place and can be split into life style – elements such as cuisines, traditions, folklore etc and creativity – fashion, graphic design, cinema, entertainment etc.

In some places both these aspects form an offering which are mutually complementing each of the them.
Based on above, following are some subcategories of cultural tourism which are able to contribute to and motivate visitors:

– Heritage Tourism
– Art Tourism
– Urban Culture Tourism
– Rural Culture Tourism
– Contemporary Tourism

Jay Kantawala from WIYO Travel feels that Indians should also explore the Cultural tourism aspect of India apart from the International trips. Indian states of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh also have a lot to offer to clients with interest in Cultural tourism.

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