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Pilgrims arrive in Mecca for downsized hajj amid pandemic

By: AP | Dubai |

Printed: July 27, 2020 3:26:01 pm

Pilgrims arrive to King Abdulaziz Airport for the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, July 25, 2020. (Saudi Ministry of Media through AP)

Muslim pilgrims have began arriving in Mecca for a drastically scaled-down hajj as Saudi authorities steadiness the dominion’s oversight of certainly one of Islam’s key pillars and the protection of holiday makers within the face of a world pandemic.

The hajj, which begins on Wednesday, usually attracts round 2.5 million individuals for 5 intense days of worship in one of many world’s largest gatherings of individuals from world wide.

This yr, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj Ministry has mentioned between 1,000 and 10,000 individuals already residing within the kingdom will probably be allowed to carry out the pilgrimage.

Two-thirds of these pilgrims will probably be from amongst international residents in Saudi Arabia and one-third will probably be Saudi residents.

The dominion has one of many Mideast’s largest outbreaks of the coronavirus, with greater than 266,000 reported infections, together with 2,733 deaths.

Fatin Daud, a 25-year-old Malaysian finding out Arabic in Saudi Arabia, was among the many choose few whose utility for hajj was accredited. After her choice, Saudi Well being Ministry officers got here to her residence and examined her for the COVID-19 virus.

She was then given an digital bracelet that screens her motion and instructed to quarantine for a number of days at residence.

After that, Daud was moved to a lodge in Mecca, the place she stays in self-isolation, nonetheless sporting the digital wristband. A big field of meals is delivered to her lodge room thrice a day as she prepares to start the hajj.

It was unbelievable. It felt surreal as a result of I used to be not anticipating to get it,” she mentioned of her pleasure when she discovered she was chosen. Daud mentioned she’s praying for the top of COVID-19 and for unity amongst Muslims world wide.

I’m assured that security measures are being taken and that the one factor that we have to do as pilgrims is observe directions, and take a look at our greatest to help one another,” she mentioned.

Whereas self-isolating has been emotionally difficult, Daud mentioned she is a part of a gaggle of about 10 Malaysian and Singaporean pilgrims connecting on-line and sharing ideas and non secular workout routines to maintain busy.

The Saudi authorities is masking the bills of all pilgrims this yr, offering them with meals, lodge lodging, transportation and well being care. Usually, the hajj can price 1000’s of {dollars} for pilgrims who save a lifetime for the journey.

It additionally generates billions of {dollars} in income every year for Saudi Arabia.

Saudi kings have for generations assumed titles as custodians of Islam’s holiest websites, and their oversight of the hajj is a supply of status and affect amongst Muslims globally. Saudi Arabia has by no means cancelled the hajj within the almost 90 years for the reason that nation was based.

For the primary time in Saudi historical past, no pilgrims from overseas have been permitted to participate within the hajj resulting from issues in regards to the coronavirus and overcrowding.

It’s a stark departure from earlier years, when some 2 million pilgrims from greater than 160 international locations flocked to Mecca for the religious rituals, principally from throughout Asia and Africa.

Though the hajj usually attracts all age teams, pilgrims this yr have been required to be between the ages of 20 and 50, and in good well being.

The bodily demanding rituals of the hajj supply a profound expertise for Muslims, with the devoted usually weeping, their palms stretched towards the sky, in prayer and repentance. The hajj is required of all able-bodied Muslims as soon as in a lifetime.

This yr, pilgrims should put on face masks and can solely be capable to drink holy water from the Zamzam effectively in Mecca that has been prepackaged in plastic bottles. Pebbles for casting away evil which can be normally picked up by pilgrims alongside hajj routes will probably be sterilized and bagged earlier than being distributed to the pilgrims.

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