JEDDAH: The city of Makkah is opening its arms again to welcome pilgrims for the annual Hajj — although only a handful compared with previous years.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event is limited to about 1,000 pilgrims, all from inside Saudi Arabia, about 700 of whom are expatriates.
Abdullah Al-Kathiri, an Emirati and a recovered COVID-19 patient, postponed his pilgrimage last year because it coincided with his wedding plans. “I’ve heard from many who’ve performed the pilgrimage in past years that it was always a smooth process, even with the massive numbers,” he said. “So you could imagine how it would be with the limited number of pilgrims this year. Surely it will be a great experience.”
Khadija, a Bulgarian expatriate, was overcome with tears when she heard she would be performing Hajj this year. “I didn’t expect they’d accept,” she said. “I’m sure this year’s Hajj will be an exceptional one in all respects.”
Dr. Haifa Yousef Hamdoon, a Tunisian physician in Qassim, is another who did not expect to be accepted because of the low numbers this year. “When I received confirmation of my request, I was overjoyed and couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Mu’taz Mohamed, a Sudanese pilgrim who also lives in Qassim region, praised the preventive and precautionary health measures taken in order to ensure his safety and that of other pilgrims, to enable them to perform the rituals safely.
After completing their arrival procedures, the pilgrims were taken to their accommodation in Makkah, supervised by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. They will stay there for four days before beginning their pilgrimage on July 30.