Muslim pilgrims gathered at Saudi Arabia’s Mount Arafat on Monday within the excessive level of this 12 months’s hajj, being held in downsized type and underneath coronavirus restrictions for the second 12 months operating.
Just 60,000 individuals, all residents or residents of Saudi Arabia, have been chosen to participate on this 12 months’s hajj, with international pilgrims once more barred.
The mask-clad devoted, who had spent the night time in camps within the Valley of Mina, converged on Mount Arafat the place it’s believed the Prophet Mohammed delivered his last sermon, for a very powerful of the hajj rituals.
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Afternoon prayers, worshippers historically ascend the 70-metre (230-foot) excessive hill and its surrounding plain for hours of prayers and Koran recitals to atone for his or her sins, staying there till the night.
After sundown, they head to Muzdalifah, midway between Arafat and Mina, the place they may sleep underneath the celebs earlier than performing the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.
The scene was dramatically completely different to previous pilgrimages, which have drawn as much as 2.5 million individuals, and this 12 months the mountain was freed from the massive crowds that descend on it in regular years.
– Privileged few –
Being one of many fortunate few “gives you a feeling that our God is forgiving and has chosen us to be in this place,” mentioned Selma Mohamed Hegazi, a 45-year-old Egyptian. “God prepared, our prayers shall be accepted.
“My whole body is shivering,” she instructed AFP as she stood among the many different emotional pilgrims, carrying the ihram, the standard seamless white garment worn through the hajj.
Worshippers described a way of tranquility descending on the mountain, often known as the “Mount of Mercy”.
“To be one of only 60,000 doing hajj ….I feel like I am part of a (privileged) group that was able to reach this place,” mentioned Baref Siraj, a 58-year-old Saudi nationwide.
The hajj, one of many 5 pillars of Islam and a should for able-bodied Muslims with the means to journey not less than as soon as of their lifetime, is normally one of many world’s largest non secular gatherings.
Hosting the hajj is a matter of status for Saudi rulers, for whom the custodianship of Islam’s holiest websites is their strongest supply of political legitimacy.
But barring abroad pilgrims has induced deep disappointment amongst Muslims worldwide, who usually save for years to participate.
Participants had been chosen from greater than 558,000 candidates via an internet vetting system, with the occasion confined to completely vaccinated adults aged 18-65 with no continual sicknesses.
– Safety first –
Authorities are in search of to repeat final 12 months’s profitable occasion which passed off on the smallest scale in fashionable historical past with simply 10,000 individuals, however which noticed no virus outbreak.
Saudi well being authorities mentioned Sunday that not a single Covid case had been reported amongst the pilgrims this 12 months.
The kingdom has up to now recorded greater than 509,000 coronavirus infections, together with over 8,000 deaths. Some 20 million vaccine doses have been administered within the nation of over 34 million individuals.
The hajj, which generally packs giant crowds into congested non secular websites, might have been a super-spreader occasion for the virus.
But Saudi Arabia has mentioned it’s deploying the “highest levels of health precautions” in mild of the pandemic and the emergence of recent variants.
Pilgrims are being divided into teams of simply 20 to limit potential publicity, and a “smart hajj card” has been launched to permit contact-free entry to camps, motels, and the buses to ferry pilgrims round non secular websites.
Black-and-white robots have been deployed to dispense bottles of sacred water from the Zamzam spring in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, constructed across the Kaaba, the black cubic construction in the direction of which Muslims all over the world pray.
Ibrahim Siam, a 64-year-old Egyptian pilgrim who comes from Dammam within the east of the nation, mentioned that high-tech procedures launched to handle the hajj “have made things a lot easier.”