In the years before the coronavirus, about three million white-clad pilgrims from around the world flocked to Islam’s most glorious sites to visit the Hajj under the blazing sun of Saudi Arabia.
Due to the fact that the pandemic makes large gatherings impossible, only a few thousand pilgrims – Saudis and foreigners in the kingdom – are allowed to gather this year on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat for the most important ritual. They share a common plea.
“Everyone will pray that this pandemic ends and that all the people of the world see the best months after all the suffering caused by the coronavirus,” said Ammar Khaled, a 29-year-old Indian pilgrim who is an IT professional in Jeddah.
For years, the kingdom has spent billions of dollars to make one of the world’s largest religious gatherings safer.
This year, it has the task of keeping the Hajj, a lifelong duty, for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, and the main source of income for the government, safe from COVID-19.
For the first time in recent history, he sharply reduced the number of pilgrims to ensure compliance with social exclusion measures.
Minister Hajj said the number of pilgrims would be limited to about 1,000 in June, but there was no official number for those performing the rituals this week. Some local media reported the figure at about 10,000.
Saudi health and safety workers at the forefront of the disease account for about 30 percent of the total, the rest of the 160 nationalities living in the kingdom.
The masked pilgrims walked around the Kaaba, the stone building most sacred in Islam and the direction Muslims face to pray, in small groups of 50, each kept at a safe distance and accompanied by a medical worker. who followed their movements.
Unlike in previous years, when they went to the Kaaba, pilgrims are forbidden to touch a simple stone house made of cube, covered with black cloth and wrapped in Arabic on golden silk.
Workers sanitized the building by rubbing Oud perfume, a popular Arabic sweet and woody scent, on its walls and carrying incense as they moved around the Great Mosque.
At the site, 3,500 workers are being distributed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca to rehabilitate it, using 54,000 liters (11,888 gallons) of disinfectants and 1,050 liters (277 gallons) of air fresheners daily.
The floors of the mosque were cleaned 10 times a day, which was three times in the past.