Muslim pilgrims attend Friday prayers at the Grand Mosque and its surrounding area during the annual haj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca October 19, 2012. – Reuters

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia raised $16.5 billion from Muslim pilgrimages this year to Mecca and Medina in the west of the kingdom, a Saudi newspaper reported on Thursday.

Al-Hayat, citing religious tourism sources, said a total of 12 million pilgrims visited Islam's holiest sites during the annual hajj which took place this year at the end of October or for the year-long umra, or minor pilgrimage.

The pilgrims - including 3.1 million who made the hajj, including 1.7 million from abroad, according to official figures - spent 62 billion riyals ($16.5 billion), a rise of 10 percent over 2011 because of increased costs, it said.

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