Mumbai: As pilgrims throng the two Holy cities in Saudi Arabia to perform Haj scheduled in the second week of September this year, they are exchanging their local currencies with Saudi riyals to a whopping SR20 million a day.
"The average amount of money exchanged in a day during the Haj season is about SR20 million. The operations reach their peak in Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah, even though there are money exchange offices in other cities, especially those on the pilgrimage routes", Dr. Abdullah Al-Maghlouth, a member of the Saudi Economic Association, is quoted as saying by Saudi Gazette.
"The money exchange market in Haj is worth SR500 million", he added.
A pilgrim stays in Saudi Arabia for an average 15-45 days depending on which country he or she is coming from. A large number of pilgrims do not or cannot bring with them sufficient amounts of Saudi money and they have to rely on the money changers when they run out of the local currency.
The pilgrims need Saudi riyals to pay for accommodation and food as well as to purchase gifts and souvenirs to take home.
At least 78 firms offer foreign exchange services in the three cities to millions of pilgrims coming from all over the world to the Kingdom during Haj and Umrah seasons and they deal in more than 63 different currencies.
The profession of money changer in Makkah and Jeddah has a long history. To begin with, it does not involve a lot of hard work and the only investment required is a certain amount of foreign currency and the ability to speak a number of languages, according to Historian Walid Shalabi.
More than 3 million Haj pilgrims are expected to be present at Mount Arafat in September second week to perform Haj.
According to the statistics available from the local media, so far more than six lakh Haj pilgrims have already arrived in the Kingdom.