Muslim Pilgrims Flock to Mecca for First Post-pandemic Hajj

Security officers mixed with pilgrims inside the Grand Mosque, a web of surveillance cameras oversees its surroundings and checkpoints control access to the city to help ensure an incident-free hajj

Reuters
Reuters
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Muslim worshippers gather before the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca, on Friday.
Muslim worshippers gather before the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca, on Friday.Credit: AFP
Reuters
Reuters

Thousands of pilgrims started arriving in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia on Friday, among some one million Muslims expected to attend the 2022 hajj pilgrimage season after two years of major disruption caused by the COVID pandemic.

“Abortion bans hurt U.S. Jews' religious freedom”: LISTEN to Sheila Katz

Subscribe
0:00
-- : --

Wrapped in white robes, with some carrying umbrellas against the burning desert sun, hundreds performed the first ritual of the hajj, which involves walking in a circle around the Kaaba, the sacred building at the center of Mecca's Grand Mosque.

"Praise be God… It's impossible to describe my feelings right now," said Ahmed Sayed Mahmoud, an Egyptian pilgrim. "Being in the Grand Mosque and in the land of the two holy mosques makes me very happy."

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Friday.Credit: MOHAMMED SALEM/Reuters

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, allowed back foreign travelers this year to perform the hajj. Only a few thousand Saudi citizens and residents attended the annual pilgrimage in the last two years as COVID-19 wreaked havoc across the global economy and curtailed travel.

However, authorities have said only one million people can join the 2022 season, less than half of pre-pandemic levels, and access is restricted to pilgrims aged 18 to 65 who have been fully vaccinated or immunized against the virus and do not suffer from chronic diseases.

Security officers mixed with pilgrims inside the mosque. A web of surveillance cameras oversaw its surroundings and checkpoints controlled access to the city to help ensure an incident-free hajj, which has been marred in the past by deadly stampedes, fires and riots.

Over the years, the kingdom has spent billions of dollars on making one of the world's biggest religious gatherings more secure. Hajj, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, is a major source of income for the government from worshippers’ lodging, transport, fees and gifts.

In 2019, the last year before the pandemic struck, some 2.6 million people performed the hajj, while around 19 million took part in the umrah, another form of pilgrimage to Mecca which – unlike the hajj – can be carried out at any time of the year.

An economic reform plan of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aims to increase umrah and hajj capacity to 30 million pilgrims annually and to generate 50 billion riyals ($13.32 billion) of revenues by 2030.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

The Orion nebula, photographed in 2009 by the Spitzer Telescope.

What if the Big Bang Never Actually Happened?

Relatives mourn during the funeral of four teenage Palestinians from the Nijm family killed by an errant rocket in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, August 7.

Why Palestinian Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill So Many Palestinians

בן גוריון

'Strangers in My House': Letters Expelled Palestinian Sent Ben-Gurion in 1948, Revealed

AIPAC

AIPAC vs. American Jews: The Toxic Victories of the 'pro-Israel' Lobby

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic speaks during a press conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May.

‘This Is Crazy’: Israeli Embassy Memo Stirs Political Storm in the Balkans

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza.

Israel Rewards Hamas for Its Restraint During Gaza Op