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Saudi welcomes 1 million for largest hajj pilgrimage since pandemic – Occasions of India

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MECCA, Saudi Arabia: White-robed worshippers from the world over have packed the streets of Mecca as Islam’s holiest metropolis prepares to host the largest hajj pilgrimage because the coronavirus pandemic. Banners welcoming the devoted, together with the primary worldwide guests since 2019, festooned squares and alleys, whereas armed safety forces patrolled the traditional metropolis, birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed. “That is pure pleasure,” Sudanese pilgrim Abdel Qader Kheder instructed AFP in Mecca, forward of the occasion anticipated to start out on Wednesday. “I virtually cannot consider I’m right here. I’m having fun with each second.” A million folks, together with 850,000 from overseas, are allowed at this yr’s hajj — a key pillar of Islam that every one able-bodied Muslims are required to carry out at the very least as soon as — after two years of drastically curtailed numbers because of the pandemic. Not less than 650,000 abroad pilgrims have arrived to date in Saudi Arabia, the authorities stated Sunday. In 2019, about 2.5 million folks took half within the rituals, which embrace circling the Kaaba, the imposing black dice at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, gathering at Mount Arafat and “stoning the satan” in Mina. The next yr, foreigners have been barred and worshippers have been restricted to only 10,000, rising to 60,000 absolutely vaccinated Saudi residents and residents in 2021, to cease the hajj turning into a world super-spreader. A million vaccinated pilgrims underneath the age of 65 will attend the hajj underneath strict sanitary circumstances, with the Grand Mosque, the holiest web site in Islam, scrubbed and disinfected 10 instances a day. The rituals have seen quite a few disasters, together with a 2015 stampede that killed as much as 2,300 folks and a 1979 assault by a whole bunch of gunmen that left 153 lifeless, in keeping with the official toll. The pilgrimage, one of many 5 pillars of Islam, is a robust supply of status for the conservative desert kingdom and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who’s getting back from the diplomatic wilderness. Days after the hajj, Prince Mohammed will welcome US President Joe Biden who, with oil costs despatched hovering by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has reneged on guarantees to show Saudi Arabia right into a “pariah” over the 2018 homicide of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers. The hajj, which prices at the very least $5,000 per particular person, is a money-spinner for the world’s largest oil exporter, bringing in about $12 billion a yr together with different non secular visits. Additionally it is an opportunity to showcase a rustic that’s present process speedy transformation, whereas nonetheless drawing common complaints about human rights abuses and limits on private freedoms. Saudi Arabia — which has underneath latest reforms permitted raves in Riyadh and mixed-gender seashores in Jeddah — now additionally permits girls to attend the hajj unaccompanied by a male family member, a requirement that was dropped final yr. Masks are now not obligatory in most enclosed areas in Saudi Arabia however they are going to be necessary on the Grand Mosque. Pilgrims from overseas should submit a destructive PCR check consequence. The Grand Mosque will probably be “washed 10 instances a day… by greater than 4,000 female and male staff”, with greater than 130,000 litres (34,000 gallons) of disinfectant used every time, authorities stated. For the reason that begin of the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has registered greater than 795,000 coronavirus circumstances, 9,000 of them deadly, in a inhabitants of about 34 million. Except for Covid, one other problem is the scorching solar in one of many world’s hottest and driest areas, which is turning into much more excessive via the results of local weather change. Though summer season has solely simply begun, temperatures have already topped 50 levels Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in components of Saudi Arabia. However for Iraqi pilgrim Ahmed Abdul-Hassan al-Fatlawi, the recent climate is the very last thing he thinks of when in Mecca. “I’m 60 years outdated, so it is regular if I get bodily drained due to the recent climate, however I’m in a state of serenity, and that is all that issues to me,” he instructed AFP.

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