Saudi Arabia expecting one million Hajj Pilgrims, first time since COVID-19

Number is largest since COVID-19 virus struck

About One million Muslim pilgrims were converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on Wednesday for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic access to one of Islam’s five pillars.

Saudi Arabia’s is allowing around 850,000 Muslims from abroad to make the annual Haj 2022 pilgrimage, which begins on Thursday, marks a major step toward normalcy after two years of a drastically scaled-down Hajj restricted to Saudi residents.

One million foreign and domestic pilgrims participating is still far less than the 2.5 million Muslims who traveled in 2019 for the Hajj  pilgrimage, typically one of the world’s largest Pilgrimage gatherings. Those performing the Haj ritual this year must be under 65, Fully vaccinated against coronavirus and have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel. All the Hajj pilgrims are chosen from millions of applicants through an online lottery system.

Saudi officials inspected the holy site on Wednesday and stressed their “readiness” to receive pilgrims with the goal of “maintaining public health.”

After the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, Saudi authorities allowed just 1,000 Hajj pilgrims , Those who already residing in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to attend, prompting historians to compare the disruption to the site’s storming by religious extremists and dramatic closure in 1979.

Hajj 2021Last year, the Hajj was similarly restricted and allowed upto 60,000 fully vaccinated Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia. The unprecedented curbs sent shock waves throughout the Muslim world, devastating many believers who had spent years saving and awaited up for the visit of religious rite.

This year, Hajj 2022 however, Saudi authorities are keen to relax virus curbs. Religious pilgrimages brought in $12 billion before the pandemic — accounting for the largest percentage of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product after oil.

Although virus cases have risen steadily to more than 500 a day in Saudi Arabia, the government lifted the country’s indoor mask mandate and other virus precautions last month. Roughly 70 percent of the country has been vaccinated against the virus.

The Quran says that all Islam’s followers who are physically and financially are Strong and able to make the pilgrimage once in their lifetime. Hajj Pilgrims travel to Mecca from all over the world for five intense days of worship, carrying out a series of rituals.

The Hajj follows a route the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) walked nearly 1,400 years ago and is believed to trace the footsteps of the prophets Ibrahim and Prophet Ismail, or Abraham and Ishmael as they are named in the Bible.