onsdag 29. juli 2020

'Unprecedented' Hajj begins -- with 1,000 pilgrims, rather than the usual 2 million

Islam's most important annual pilgrimage began Tuesday with just a small fraction of its regular number of worshippers, amid concerns over 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 Mecca and Medina normally host more than 2 million people during the pilgrimage. 

For the first time in decades, international travelers have been 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 are aged between 20 and 50. Saudi Arabia -- which has 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 major pillars, could be canceled, calling on potential pilgrims to put their plans on hold.