Socially-Distanced Hajj Begins Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The first ever socially-distanced Hajj began on Wednesday as around 10,000 mask-clad Muslims walked into Makkah’s Masjid-al-Haram to commence the ritual with their first Tawaf – the circumambulation of the Kaaba towards which Muslims around the world pray.
This year only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom participated in Hajj, compared with 2019’s gathering of some 2.5 million from around the world. They were brought in small batches, walking along paths marked on the floor, in sharp contrast to the normal sea of humanity that swirls around the Kaaba during Hajj.
The pilgrims travelled to Mina on Wednesday, another district of Makkah where they spent the night. The location is in a narrow valley surrounded by rocky mountains, and is transformed each year into a vast encampment for pilgrims.
The worshippers will today (Thursday) climb Mount Arafat, also known as the ‘Mount of Mercy’, for hours of prayers and Quranic recitals. After descending the following day, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.
The pilgrims, who have all been tested for the virus, are required to wear masks and observe social distancing during the rites completed over five days in the holy city of Makkah and its surroundings.