Pilgrims head to Mina as Hajj 2021 officially begins
Only 60,000 fully vaccinated citizens and residents of the kingdom are allowed to take part due to coronavirus pandemic.
Hajj pilgrims streamed out of the holy city of Mecca and into the Mina valley on Sunday, launching the rituals of the great pilgrimage which Saudi Arabia is holding in a scaled-down form for a second year.
Only 60,000 fully vaccinated citizens and residents of the kingdom are allowed to take part, far from the vast crowds that descend on Mecca in normal times when the ritual drew up to 2.5 million pilgrims.
Since Saturday, groups of pilgrims have been performing the “tawaf ” at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, circling the Kaaba, a large cubic structure draped in goldenembroidered black cloth towards which Muslims around the world pray. After that, they have been making their way to Mina, where they will spend the night. Mina sits in a narrow valley surrounded by rocky mountains, some five kilometres (three miles) from the Grand Mosque, and is transformed each year into a vast encampment for pilgrims.
Pilgrims were brought there Sunday on buses which were only half-filled to respect social distancing rules, and authorities provided 3,000 electric cars to transport the elderly and those with limited mobility.
“We have applied social distancing inside the camps where there are four pilgrims in each room. We have put barriers between each bed to apply social distancing,” tour operator Hadi Fouad told AFP.