Pilgrims arrived in the holy city of Mecca on Saturday for the second downsized Hajj staged during the coronavirus pandemic, circling Islam’s holiest site in masks and on distanced paths.
Authorities at the Grand Mosque in Makkah began to welcome pilgrims this morning, with more than 500 employees dispatched to serve them as they perform the initial “Tawaf”, where pilgrims go around the Kaaba in circles upon entering the mosque premises.
The kingdom is allowing only 60,000 fully vaccinated residents to take part, seeking to repeat last year's success that saw no virus outbreak during the five-day ritual.
This year’s Hajj, with participants chosen through a lottery, is larger than the pared-down version staged in 2020 but drastically smaller than in normal times.
The hajj, usually one of the world's largest annual religious gatherings with some 2.5 million people taking part in 2019, is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.
It consists of a series of religious rites, formally starting on Sunday, which are completed over five days in Islam's holiest city and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.