The first downsized Hajj within the modern history amid COVID-19 pandemic has been concluded on Sunday after pilgrims performed the ultimate ritual by circling Islam’s holiest site along socially distant paths.
Only up to 10,000 pilgrims took part within the Hajj, a far cry from the two .5 million who took part within the five-day annual pilgrimage last year.
Masked pilgrims threw pebbles at a wall symbolising Satan in Mina, on the brink of the Celestial City of Makkah, on the ultimate day of Hajj, state media reported.
This time, rather than gathering the pebbles themselves, the pilgrims got bagged and sterilised by Hajj authorities, to guard against the virus infection .
Pilgrims returned to the Grand Mosque in Makkah afterward Sunday to perform a final “tawaf”, or circling of the Kaaba — a cubic structure towards which Muslims round the world pray.
Holding the ritual within the shadow of the pandemic required “double efforts” by Saudi authorities, King Salman said on Friday after being discharged from hospital following surgery to get rid of his gall bladder.
“The Hajj this year was restricted to a really limited number of individuals from multiple nationalities, ensuring the ritual was completed despite the difficult circumstances,” said the kingdom’s 84-year-old ruler.
Saudi health authorities said no coronavirus cases were reported at the holy sites during the Hajj.
After the Hajj, the pilgrims, who were required to watch social distancing and subjected to regular temperature checks, will enter mandatory isolation, Saudi authorities said.
The ritual, one among the five pillars of Islam and a requirement for able-bodied Muslims a minimum of once in their lifetime, is typically one among the world’s largest religious gatherings.
Saudi local media said up to 10,000 people already residing within the kingdom were participated this year.
The Hajj ministry had initially said around 1,000 pilgrims would be allowed.
The Hajj typically costs thousands of dollars for pilgrims, who often but years also as sustain long waiting lists for an opportunity to attend.
But this year, the Saudi government is covering the expenses of all pilgrims, providing them with meals, hotel accommodation and health care, worshippers said.