Saudi Arabia hosts largest pilgrimage since pandemic

Saudi Arabia Saudi hosts the most important pilgrimage since the pandemic

At the Grand Mosque in Mecca, pilgrims performed the tawaf, or convolutions around the Kaaba, a large cubic structure draped in black cloth embroidered with gold, to which Muslims around the world turn for prayer .

The hajj, which this year brings together its largest number of pilgrims since the start of the pandemic, began on Wednesday with hundreds of thousands of faithful, often without masks, gathered around of Islam's holiest site in Mecca.

One million vaccinated Muslims, including 850,000 from abroad, have been allowed by Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj this year, after two years of drastically limiting participants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.

At the Grand Mosque in Mecca, pilgrims performed the tawaf, or convolutions around the Kaaba, a large cubic structure draped in black cloth embroidered with gold, toward which Muslims around the world flock. turn for prayer.

Many men draped in white and women in dresses of all colors marched without masks, while the Saudi authorities had assured in June that x27; it would be obligatory in the Grand Mosque.

Many pilgrims carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun, in temperatures exceeding 40 degrees.

About 20 hospitals, with 1,000 intensive care beds, and 147 health centers have been made available to pilgrims, and 25,000 caregivers have been deployed in Mecca and Medina, the second holiest city in the world. #x27;Islam, according to authorities.

The hajj has been marked by several dramas throughout history, including a stampede that killed 2,300 people in 2015.< /p>

No incidents were reported on Wednesday.

A million vaccinated Muslims, including 850,000 from abroad, have been authorized by Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj this year

Everything is going very well so far. I walked around a lot and saw that the rules were followed, said Faten Abdel Moneim, a 65-year-old mother from Egypt. I hope this will continue.

The hajj, for which participants are chosen by lot from millions of candidates, welcomes a larger number of pilgrims than in 2020 and 2021, but still far below compared to the before- pandemic.

As of 2019, some 2.5 million Muslims around the world have participated in this ritual, one of the five pillars of Islam for every Muslim valid who can afford it.

Only 60,000 vaccinated citizens and residents of the Saudi kingdom had been authorized in 2021, slightly more than the tens of thousands of participants in 2020, at the height of the health crisis.

The pilgrimage consists of a series of religious rites performed over five days in and around Islam's holiest city in western Saudi Arabia.

Pilgrims will travel to Mina, about five kilometers from the Grand Mosque, on Thursday before the main rite at Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have delivered his last sermon.

Four hospitals and 26 health centers are ready in Mina, state media said, adding that white tents with air conditioning have been provided for visitors.

C' is our duty as Muslims to come here,” said Sundus Said, a 46-year-old Iraqi professor. Many people in Iraq want to come, but not all of them can. I'm here now and it's just great.

Due to the coronavirus, the large gathering is restricted to vaccinated Muslims under the age of 65, with out-of-towners required to present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the travel.

Since the start of the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 795,000 cases of coronavirus, including around 9,000 deaths.

Hosting the hajj is a matter of prestige for Saudi leaders, for whom the conservation of Islam's holiest sites is a source of political legitimacy and aura in the Muslim world.

< p class="e-p">The hajj, which costs at least 5000 euros per person, is also an important source of income for the country whose economy depends mainly on oil, being among the main exporters of gold black in the world. Before the pandemic, pilgrimages brought in several billion dollars.

This year, the hajj is also an opportunity to show social developments in the ultra-conservative kingdom, in the face of numerous accusations of human rights violations.

Saudi Arabia has allowed women to participate in the hajj since 2021 without being accompanied by a male relative.

Being here is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I can't wait to see what happens next, Naïma Mohsen, a 42-year-old Egyptian, told AFP.

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