COVID-19 pandemic introduces scaled-down Hajj for Muslims

Coronavirus has affected almost everything in the world, either directly or indirectly. The same goes for the Hajj, which began on Wednesday. Hajj is one of Islam’s five pillars and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime. 

It is one of the world’s biggest gatherings, drawing more than 2.5 million people each year towards the two Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina. The holy pilgrimage of Hajj began on July 28 and will continue until August 2, this year. Hajj happens in the most sacred month of the Islamic calendar, known as Dhu al-Hijjah.

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“Holding the ritual in the shadow of this pandemic… required reducing the numbers of pilgrims, but it obliged various official agencies to put in double efforts. The Hajj this year was restricted to a very limited number of people from multiple nationalities, ensuring the ritual was completed despite the difficult circumstances,” 84-year-old King Salman said in a speech read out on state television by acting media minister Majid Al-Qasabi.

Only ten thousand pilgrims were allowed this year compared to millions in previous years. All of the permitted pilgrims were already residing in the same country. None of the pilgrims above the age of 50 and those with any medical problems were allowed.

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Before, thousands of pilgrims simultaneously circled the Kaaba( the holy building at the center of the mosque) and could touch it. This year far fewer pilgrims were allowed to follow social distancing guidelines simultaneously and were not allowed to touch Kaaba.

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All the necessary things like sanitization and cleaning were done with extreme care. In fact, 3,500 people were employed for the purpose of sanitizations across the grand mosque, and 54,000 liters of disinfectant and 1,050 liters of air fresheners are being used daily. The floor is being cleaned ten times a day.

The government provided everyone with wrist bands to track their movements. People were seen holding colorful umbrellas that protected them against the scorching heat and made social distancing a bit easier. Images of people holding colorful umbrellas and circling the Kaaba were pleasing to the eye and immediately went viral on different social media platforms.

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