Saudi Arabia: limited resumption of the small Muslim pilgrimage

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Muslim worshipers returned to Mecca on Sunday to perform the umrah, the small pilgrimage, surrounded by strict precautionary measures after a seven-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In small groups supervised by caregivers ensuring compliance with the wearing of masks and the rules of physical distancing, these faithful began to perform the “tawaf”, consisting of going around the Kaaba seven times, a cubic construction towards which the Muslims for prayer and which sits in the middle of the patio of the Great Mosque of Mecca.

The small pilgrimage or umrah can be done all year round unlike the hajj, which is limited in time. It attracts millions of followers annually from all over the world.

Due to the pandemic, the Saudi authorities have decided to relaunch the small pilgrimage in three stages with measures intended to prevent, as during the hajj organized at the end of July, any contamination.

Initially, only 6,000 Saudis and foreign residents will be allowed, every day from Sunday, to make this pilgrimage.

The 6,000 faithful will be divided into 12 groups to allow fluidity of movement and ensure respect for physical distancing during convolutions around the Kaaba, the Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammed Benten, explained on television last week. Saudi Arabian.

On October 18, the number of worshipers (Saudis and foreign residents) authorized to make the small pilgrimage will be increased to 15,000 per day and 40,000 others will be admitted to the Grand Mosque for daily prayers.

The faithful coming from abroad will be authorized from November 1, when the number of pilgrims admitted will rise to 20,000 per day and that of those authorized to perform prayers to 60,000.

The countries of origin of the foreign pilgrims will be selected by the Ministry of Health on the basis of the evolution of the pandemic.

Only tens of thousands of worshipers residing in Saudi Arabia were able to perform the hajj this summer compared to 2.5 million participants from around the world in 2019.

This drastic reduction in the number of pilgrims and the health restrictions allowed the authorities to proclaim that there had been no contamination during the great pilgrimage, which brought nothing to the kingdom while it usually generates billions of dollars per year.

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