Hajj Pilgrims to Perform Downsized Pilgrimage Amid COVID-19

Sunday, 02 Aug, 2020

At the Grand Mosque, gaps separated worshipers' prayer mats, whereas the ritual is normally performed shoulder to shoulder with other believers.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. However, this year the number has been reduced to a mere 10,000. Pilgrims were selected after applying through an online portal, and all had to be between 20 and 50 years of age.

Some 70% of the pilgrims are foreigners residing in the kingdom, while the rest are Saudi citizens, authorities said.

Conducting the hajj this year is a feat few thought possible. "God will give you something attractive when you are down".

Muslim pilgrims pray near the Mercy mountain in Arafat as they distance themselves to protect against coronavirus during the annual hajj pilgrimage near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, July 30, 2020.

Last year, around 2.4 million pilgrims did the Hajj, according to main quotes.

Although he isn't facing massive crowds and traffic along hajj routes, Yusuf said this year's hajj isn't without its own challenges of being in self-isolation and separated from loved ones.

Strict measures are in place to ensure only those with a permit enter Mecca. Hajj is a once-in-a-lifetime requirement for all healthy and financially able Muslims.

The hajj began on Wednesday when pilgrims were brought inside the mosque in small batches.

What is different this year?

A text message about the penalties of performing hajj rituals without a permit.

They will also have to quarantine for a week after the Hajj concludes on Sunday (2 August).

Photos from Mecca's Grand Mosque are something to behold, a true snapshot of this challenging time we're in.

Haj is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

For many residents of the city, however, the economic challenges are becoming increasingly hard.

The virus has also battered pilgrimage-reliant businesses that support hundreds of thousands of jobs in Mecca, from travel agents to street barbers and souvenir shops.

In addition to being a logistical and security headache, one of the planet's largest gatherings, which drew some 2.5 million people previous year, also typically poses huge environmental challenges.

Tourism provides the source of income for many residents of Mecca, many of whom are migrants and undocumented workers.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia registered 1,686 new coronavirus cases, increasing the total tally to 275,905.

However, Hajj security forces arrested recently 244 people who attempted to infiltrate into the holy sites to perform Hajj in contravention of the coronavirus precautionary measures and preventive protocols. "This year's Ramadan was the most hard time I have had financially in my life".

Those who were allowed to take part this year had to take mandatory temperature checks and were placed in quarantine. They will spend the day there praying and asking for God's forgiveness. "This year is sad".

Thanks to her smartphone, and the 5G towers that loom over the holy city, the Indonesian housewife is sharing every step of the pilgrimage with her husband and three daughters back home in the Saudi coastal city of Khobar. He said the hotel has been in a financial crisis since April.