Saudi Arabia admits 1 million pilgrims to Mecca

Muslims gather around the Kaaba, the holiest shrine in the Grand Mosque complex in the Saudi city of Mecca, prior to prayer on the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan, April 2, 2022.

The Saudi Hajj Ministry “authorized a million pilgrims, foreign or national, to perform Hajj this year”, he announced in a press release on Saturday, April 9. This annual pilgrimage to Mecca will take place from 7 to 12 July 2022.

The government wants to guarantee the safety of pilgrims, “while ensuring that as many Muslims around the world as possible can perform Hajj”continues the press release.

The Hajj, one of the Five Pillars of Islam, must be performed at least once in their lifetime by all Muslims who can afford it. It is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world. In 2019, approximately 2.5 million people participated.

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After the pandemic started in 2020, the Saudi authorities allowed only 1,000 pilgrims to participate. The following year, they admitted 60,000 fully vaccinated residents, chosen by lottery. These restrictions fueled resentment among Muslims abroad who were not allowed to participate.

Conditions of entry ranging from vaccine to PCR tests

According to the announcement made on Saturday, this year’s Hajj will be limited to vaccinated pilgrims under the age of 65. Those coming from outside Saudi Arabia must provide a negative PCR test less than seventy-two hours old.

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Hajj is a series of religious rites performed over five days in Islam’s holiest city, Mecca, and the surrounding areas of western Saudi Arabia. Hosting the Hajj is a matter of prestige for Saudi leaders, with responsibility for Islam’s holiest sites underpinning their political legitimacy.

Before the pandemic, the pilgrimage was an essential source of income for the kingdom, worth about $12 billion (€11 billion) a year.

The kingdom of about 34 million people has recorded more than 751,000 cases of coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and 9,055 deaths, according to health ministry data. In early March, he announced the lifting of most Covid-19 restrictions, including physical distancing in public places and quarantine for vaccinated arrivals, while masks are now only mandatory in closed places. †

Le Monde and AFP