In the years leading up to the coronavirus, about three million white-clad pilgrims from around the world flocked to Islam’s holiest sites to attend Saudi Arabia’s Living Under the Blistering Sun.
With the pandemic making large gatherings impossible, a few thousand pilgrims – Saudis and foreign residents in the kingdom – are allowed to gather this year on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat for the most important rituals. They share a common motive.
“Everyone will call for an end to this pandemic, and for people all over the world to see better months after coming the suffering caused by the coronavirus,” said Ammar Khaled, a 29-year-old Indian pilgrim who is an IT professional f ̵6;Jeddah.
Over the years, the kingdom has spent billions of dollars to make one of the largest religious gatherings in the world safer.
This year, it faces the challenge of keeping Hajj, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every Muslim who can afford it and a major source of income for the government, safe from COVID-19.
For the first time in modern history, the number of pilgrims has been dramatically reduced to ensure that social exclusion measures are observed.
The Minister of Life said that in June the number of pilgrims was limited to about 1,000, but no official number was given to those performing the rituals this week. Some local media quoted a figure of about 10,000.
Saudi health and safety professionals, on the front lines of the battle against the disease, make up about 30 percent of the total, the rest coming from 160 citizens residing in the United States. kingdom.
Pilgrims wearing masks circled the Kaaba – a stone structure that is most sacred in Islam and the direction Muslims face to pray – in small groups of 50 people, each keeping a distance of safe from each other and accompanied by a health professional who monitors their movements.
Unlike years past when they made their way to the Kaaba, pilgrims are not allowed to touch the building of the simple stone cube covered with a black cloth and wrapped in Arabic writing on golden silk.
Workers sanitized the structure, sniffed the Oud perfume, the sweet sweet Arabian scent and wood, on its walls and carried incense as they walked around the Grand Mosque building.
At the site, 3,500 workers spread across the Grand Mosque in Mecca to modernize it using 54,000 liters (11,888 gallons) of disinfectant and 1,050 liters (277 gallons) of air fresheners per day.
Mosque floors were burned 10 times a day, up to three times in the past.