Islam’s most prestigious annual pilgrimage began Tuesday with just a small fraction of its regular number of worshippers, amid the coronavirus.
Only around 1,000 pilgrims will attend the Hajj this year due to new crowd control restrictions put in place by Saudi Arabia. The holy sites in the cities of Makkah and Madina usually host more than 2 million people during the pilgrimage.
For the first time in decades, international travellers have barred from the Hajj. Some 70% of the worshippers this year are foreign residents of Saudi Arabia, with the rest being Saudi nationals. All of those selected to take part aged between 20 and 50.
Saudi Arabia, which has 272,590 cases the highest number of Covid-19 infections in the Arab world, has called this year’s Hajj “unprecedented.” Previously, Saudi authorities had hinted that the annual pilgrimage, one of Islam’s five significant pillars, could be cancelled, calling on potential pilgrims to put their plans on hold.