Following in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), one million pilgrims have arrived Makkah for the lifetime journey of hajj as city prepares to host the first hajj season after two years of major disruption caused by the COVID pandemic.
Wrapped in white robes, with some carrying umbrellas against the burning sun, pilgrims performed the Tawaf (circumambulation) as they walked seven times around the Ka`bah in the Grand Mosque complex in Makkah.
“This is pure joy,” Sudanese pilgrim Abdel Qader Kheder told AFP in Makkah, ahead of the ritual expected to start on Wednesday.
“I almost can’t believe I am here. I am enjoying every moment.”
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Saudi Arabia allowed one million people, including 850,000 from abroad, this year to perform hajj.
Only vaccinated pilgrims under the age of 65 will attend hajj under strict sanitary conditions, with the Grand Mosque, the holiest site in Islam, disinfected 10 times a day.
Only a few thousand Saudi citizens and residents attended the annual pilgrimage in the last two years as COVID-19 wreaked havoc across the global economy and curtailed travel.
Aside from Covid, pilgrims will be facing scorching sun in one of the world’s hottest and driest regions.
Although summer has only just begun, temperatures have already topped 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in parts of Saudi Arabia.
For Iraqi pilgrim Ahmed Abdul-Hassan al-Fatlawi, the hot weather is the last thing he thinks of when in Makkah.
“I am 60 years old, so it’s normal if I get physically tired because of the hot weather, but I am in a state of serenity, and that’s all that matters to me,” he told AFP.
Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is performed by every Muslim with the financial and physical ability.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies which symbolizes the essential concepts of the Islamic faith. They also commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.