Pilgrims to begin downsized Hajj today

Religion Desk
29 July 2020, Wed
Published: 11:56 Updated: 11:57

Pilgrims to begin downsized Hajj today

Muslim pilgrims will begin this year's downsized annual Hajj from today, as the  Saudi hosts limit the gathering to prevent a coronavirus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage.

The hajj is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings. But this year only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in the ritual.

"There are no security-related concerns in this pilgrimage, but (downsizing) is to protect pilgrims from the danger of the pandemic," said Khalid bin Qarar Al-Harbi, Saudi Arabia's director of public security.

Pilgrims will be required to wear masks and observe social distancing during a series of religious rites that are completed over five days in the holy city of Makkah and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia.

Those selected to take part in the Hajj were subject to temperature checks and placed in quarantine as they began trickling into Makkah at the weekend.

State media showed health workers sanitising their luggage, and some pilgrims reported being given electronic wristbands to allow authorities to monitor their whereabouts.

Hajj authorities have cordoned off the Kaaba this year, saying pilgrims will not be allowed to touch it, to limit the chances of infection.

They also reported setting up multiple health facilities, mobile clinics and ambulances to cater to the pilgrims.

The foreign press are barred from this year's hajj, usually a huge global media event, as the government tightens access to Makkah.

'Indescribable feeling'
Saudi authorities initially said only around 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom would be permitted for the Hajj, but local media reports say as many as 10,000 will be allowed to take part.

Some 70% of the pilgrims are foreigners residing in the kingdom, while the rest will be Saudi citizens, authorities said.