The pilgrimage to Mecca begins, 1 million Muslims visit the holy city subject to the anti-Covid protocol.
One million pilgrims from around the world gathered in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to perform the initial rites of the Hajj, marking the largest Islamic pilgrimage since the Covid-19 pandemic overturned the celebration of one of the main pillars of Islam.
For Muslim believers in good economic and health conditions, the celebration of Hajj and the pilgrimage to Mecca is a duty that they must perform at least once in their lifetime.
The pilgrimage takes believers along a path traveled by the Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago.
Pilgrims spend five days performing a series of rituals intended to bring them closer to God.
This includes praying around the cube-shaped Kaaba, the holiest shrine in Islam.
In the center of the Grand Mosque courtyard on Thursday, thousands of unmasked pilgrims circled the Kaaba.
The crowds, noticeably thinner than usual, moved counterclockwise around the granite building in a blur, their hearts bent toward the structure meant to symbolize the oneness of God in Islam.
Pilgrims, after restrictions on visits to the Great Mosque in the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, showed constant vigilance in maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.
Typically, worshipers sought to break through the crowds to touch and kiss the Black Stone at the eastern corner of the Kaaba, but the government has banned this practice.
Saudi authorities also distributed bottles of water from the holy Zamzem well instead of allowing pilgrims to drink from glasses in the mosque.
Thousands of medical workers were on hand to help those in need.
This year, the hajj is open to only 1 million foreign and domestic pilgrims who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, tested negative for COVID-19 and are between 18 and 65 years old.
The authorities estimate that 85% of the pilgrims came from abroad. While this year’s attendance is well below the pre-pandemic influx of 2.5 million pilgrims, it represents a significant step closer to normal after the kingdom limited the event to a small number of Muslim residents for the past two years.
The ritual was almost completely canceled in 2020, when fewer than 1,000 residents were allowed to participate. About 60,000 residents participated last year.
The unprecedented restrictions sent shockwaves through the Muslim world and devastated many believers, who often save up and wait years to make the pilgrimage.
Although no longer overshadowed by the pandemic, this hajj is taking place in the middle of Russia’s war against Ukraine, a conflict that may be thousands of miles from the homes of many Muslims but has driven up the prices of basic foods and spread misery around the world. .
Hajj in Islam is meant to be a great equalizer and unifier among Muslims.
Pilgrims wear simple clothing: it is typical for men to wear a white robe, while women wear conservative clothing and headscarves, giving up make-up, nail polish and perfume to approach God, writes the Associated Press.
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