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Pilgrims arrive in Mecca for second Hajj throughout COVID pandemic

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Pilgrims started arriving within the holy metropolis of Mecca on Saturday for the second downsized Hajj staged throughout the coronavirus pandemic, circling Islam’s holiest web site in masks and on distanced paths.

The dominion is permitting solely 60,000 totally vaccinated residents to participate, in search of to repeat final yr’s success that noticed no virus outbreak throughout the five-day ritual.

This yr’s Hajj, with members chosen by way of a lottery, is bigger than the pared-down model staged in 2020 however drastically smaller than in regular occasions.

After being loaded on buses and dropped at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, pilgrims started performing the “tawaf”, the circumambulation of the Kaaba, a big cubic construction draped in golden-embroidered black fabric, in direction of which Muslims all over the world pray.

Many carried umbrellas to guard themselves from the scorching summer time warmth.

“Every three hours, 6,000 people enter to perform the tawaf of arrival,” Hajj ministry spokesman Hisham al-Saeed instructed AFP information company. “After each group leaves, a sterilisation process is carried out at the sanctuary.”   

The Hajj, often one of many world’s largest annual non secular gatherings with some 2.5 million folks collaborating in 2019, is likely one of the 5 pillars of Islam and should be undertaken by all Muslims with the means no less than as soon as of their lives.

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It consists of a collection of non secular rites, formally beginning on Sunday, that are accomplished over 5 days in Islam’s holiest metropolis and its environment in western Saudi Arabia.

It follows a route the Prophet Muhammad walked practically 1,400 years in the past and is believed to finally hint the footsteps of the Prophets Abraham and Ismail.

Golden ticket

Chosen from greater than 558,000 candidates by way of an internet vetting system, the occasion is confined to those that have been totally vaccinated and are aged 18-65 with no power sicknesses, in response to the Hajj ministry.

Pilgrims might be divided into teams of simply 20 “to restrict any exposure to only those 20, limiting the spread of infection”, ministry undersecretary Mohammad al-Bijawi instructed official media.

“We are overjoyed,” mentioned Ameen, a 58-year-old Indian oil contractor primarily based within the jap metropolis of Dammam, who was picked for the ritual alongside along with his spouse and three grownup kids.

“So many of our friends and relatives were rejected,” he instructed AFP.

Earlier this month, the Hajj ministry mentioned it was engaged on the “highest levels of health precautions” in mild of the pandemic and the emergence of recent variants.

Like the opposite international locations of the Gulf, Saudi Arabia is residence to vital expatriate populations from South Asia, the Far East, Africa in addition to the Center East.

“I feel like I won a lottery,” Egyptian pharmacist Mohammed El Eter mentioned after being chosen.

“This is a special, unforgettable moment in one’s life. I thank God for granting me this chance, to be accepted among a lot of people who applied,” the 31-year-old instructed AFP.

Saudi Arabia has to this point recorded greater than 507,000 coronavirus infections, together with some 8,000 deaths.

Greater than 20 million vaccine doses have been administered within the nation of greater than 34 million folks.

The Hajj went forward final yr on the smallest scale in trendy historical past. Authorities initially mentioned just one,000 pilgrims could be allowed, though native media mentioned as much as 10,000 finally took half.

No infections had been reported as authorities arrange a number of well being services, cell clinics and ambulances to cater for the pilgrims, who had been taken to the non secular websites in small batches.

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