Around one million maskless pilgrims are expected to be in attendance in the holy city of Mecca in Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) for the start of the ritual, reports Asian Lite Newsdesk
Thousand of maskless worshippers gathered to circle Islam’s holiest site in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca on Wednesday, kick-starting the biggest haj pilgrimage since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam and a once-in-a-lifetime duty for all able-bodied Muslims to perform if they can afford it.
Around one million people are expected to be in attendance in the holy city of Mecca in Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) for the start of the ritual, Al Jazeera reported.
“We are very excited and happy to be here… It’s a great feeling to do something that is a core religious duty,” Hammad Tahir, a pilgrim said a day before performing the Hajj, Al Jazeera cited.
Saudi Arabia eased several COVID-19 restrictions last month, including mask mandates.
In April this year, Saudi Arabia allowed one million visitors for the Haj pilgrimage.
Muslims from inside and outside the country will be able to perform the Haj provided they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and no older than 65, the Kingdom has said, as reported by Al Jazeera.
Last year only a few thousand domestic pilgrims were allowed to perform the Haj due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Haj and Umrah had said in a statement that pilgrims from abroad must also present a negative COVID-19 PCR test and that there will be additional health precautions.
At Mecca’s Grand Mosque, pilgrims will perform the “tawaf”, the circumambulation of the Kaaba, the large cubic structure draped in golden-embroidered black cloth that Muslims around the world turn towards to pray.
Before the COVID virus emerged, some 2.5 million people used to travel every year to Saudi Arabia for Haj.
UAE deploys health team
The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) has announced that a team of medical experts has been deployed at the airport to assist Haj pilgrims before they depart for Saudi Arabia and provide them with health guidelines and instructions that they must abide by during Haj pilgrimage to ensure their safety.
According to the Ministry, the team provides free tests to pilgrims and ensures that they have received the required immunisations before leaving the country.
This is in line with its awareness-raising campaign, “Your safety is priority,” which was launched for the current Haj season 2022 across the MoHAP website and numerous social media channels.
The team also advises pilgrims to take a variety of health precautions and steps while in Saudi Arabia, including wearing masks and using tissues while coughing or sneezing, refraining from shaking hands or hugging, and seeing a doctor if they develop any symptoms like coughing, rash, breathing difficulties, or muscle pain. By doing so, they can limit the spread of disease and ensure their own safety.
The ministry’s awareness campaign reflects its keenness to safeguard pilgrims’ health and safety, in line with its strategy aimed at protecting society from all risks and communicable diseases and preserving the UAE gains achieved in the fight against the pandemic, state media WAM reported.
Pilgrims with disabilities arrive
300 persons with disabilities arrived at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah to perform Hajj for this year 1443 AH, as part of the national initiative launched by the Ministry of Haj and Umrah, for the second year in a row, for persons with disabilities and orphans from all regions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to perform Haj.
The initiative aims to enable people with disabilities and orphans to perform Haj with ease and tranquility, as part of the efforts made by the Kingdom’s government to serve them, in line with the Kingdom Vision 2030.
The ministry is providing them with all facilities through the presence of escorts with special needs, suitable and equipped housing in Makkah and the holy sites that takes into account their conditions, and volunteers to serve them around the clock, the Saudi Press Agency reported.