Saudi Arabia: Thousands pilgrims kick start largest Haj post COVID-19

Makkah: Thousand of worshippers gathered to circle Islam’s holiest site in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca on Wednesday, kick-starting the biggest Haj pilgrimage since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam and a once-in-a-lifetime duty for all able-bodied Muslims to perform if they can afford it.

Around one million people are expected to be in attendance in the holy city of Mecca in Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) for the start of the ritual, Al Jazeera reported.

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“We are very excited and happy to be here… It’s a great feeling to do something that is a core religious duty,” Hammad Tahir, a pilgrim said a day before performing the Haj, Al Jazeera cited.

Saudi Arabia eased several COVID-19 restrictions last month, including mask mandates.

In April this year, Saudi Arabia allowed one million visitors for the Haj pilgrimage.

Muslims from inside and outside the country will be able to perform the Haj provided they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and no older than 65, the Kingdom has said, as reported by Al Jazeera.

Last year only a few thousand domestic pilgrims were allowed to perform the Haj due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Haj and Umrah had said in a statement that pilgrims from abroad must also present a negative COVID-19 PCR test and that there will be additional health precautions.

At Mecca’s Grand Mosque, pilgrims will perform the “tawaf”, the circumambulation of the Kaaba, the large cubic structure draped in golden-embroidered black cloth that Muslims around the world turn towards to pray.

Before the COVID-19 virus emerged, some 2.5 million people used to travel every year to Saudi Arabia for Haj.

(The story syndicated from news agency ANI has been edited by Siasat Staff.)

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