In a normal year, millions of Muslims flock to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage. But with COVID-19 still a global threat, only a few thousand have been allowed to make the journey this year, under strict rules.
Muslims in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday began the annual hajj, a five-day pilgrimage taking place on a much smaller scale this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
One of the five pillars of Islam, the hajj is a requirement able-bodied Muslims must perform at least once in their lifetime. Usually, more than 2 million people travel from around the world to take part, with huge crowds crammed into tiny religious sites. But this year only up to 10,000 people already residing in Saudi Arabia were allowed to attend.
“There are no security-related concerns in this pilgrimage, but (downsizing) is to protect pilgrims from the danger of the pandemic,” Saudi Director of Public Security Khalid bin Qarar Al-Harbi said.
To limit the risk of contagion, pilgrims were asked to wear masks and observe social distancing during the series of rites carried out over five days in the holy city of Mecca and its surrounds in western Saudi Arabia.