First Muslim Hajj pilgrimage without COVID-19 restrictions begins

Thousands of Muslim pilgrims have started the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, the first without any restrictions since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

According to official figures, up to  1.6 million people arrived from abroad alone, while two million pilgrims are expected in total.

The pandemic forced a downsising of the annual event for three consecutive years.

In 2020, only a few thousand residents in the kingdom performed the Hajj under strict social distancing measures, and in 2021, around 60,000 residents took part.

Last year, up to one million pilgrims performed the Hajj after it was opened again for Muslims abroad.

Before the pandemic, around 2.5 million Muslims from all over the world usually gathered every year for Islam’s largest congregation in the holy city of Mecca.

The Hajj, one of Islam’s five pillars, is a mandatory duty for all Muslims once in a lifetime if they possess enough financial resources and are physically capable of undertaking the journey.

This takes place annually from the eighth to the 12th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic lunar calendar.

The peak of the pilgrimage will be on Tuesday, when pilgrims gather on the holy Mount Arafat, around 20 kilometres east of Mecca.

Pilgrims stayed there until sunset in worship, praying and recitation of the Holy Koran.

Wednesday marks the start of the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival in Saudi Arabia and many other countries.


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