MAKKAH, Saudi Arabia, July 27: Muslim pilgrims have started arriving in Makkah for a drastically scaled-down Hajj as Saudi authorities balance the Kingdom’s oversight of one of Islam’s key pillars and the safety of visitors in the face of a global pandemic.
The Hajj, which begins on Wednesday, normally draws around 2.5 million people for five intense days of worship in one of the world’s largest gatherings of people from around the world.
This year, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj Ministry has said between 1,000 and 10,000 people already residing in the Kingdom will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage. Two-thirds of those pilgrims will be from among foreign residents in Saudi Arabia and one-third will be Saudi citizens.
The Kingdom has one of the Mideast’s largest outbreaks of the coronavirus, with more than 266,000 reported infections, including 2,733 deaths. Fatin Daud, a 25-year-old Malaysian studying Arabic in Saudi Arabia, was among the select few whose application for Hajj was approved.
After her selection, Saudi Health Ministry officials came to her home and tested her for the COVID-19 virus. She was then given an electronic bracelet that monitors her movement and told to quarantine for several days at home. After that, Daud was moved to a hotel in Makkah, where she remains in self-isolation, still wearing the electronic wristband. A large box of food is delivered to her hotel room three times a day as she prepares to begin the Hajj. (AP)