Saudi Arabia is permitting solely 60,000 absolutely vaccinated residents and residents of the dominion to participate, removed from the huge crowds that descend on Mecca in regular instances, when the ritual attracts some 2.5 million pilgrims.
Since Saturday, teams of pilgrims have been performing the “tawaf” at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, circling the Kaaba, a big cubic construction draped in golden-embroidered black fabric in the direction of which Muslims world wide pray.
After that, pilgrims have been making their approach to the Valley of Mina, the place they may spend the evening.
“46,000 pilgrims have arrived in Mina,” Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah Abdelfattah bin Suleiman Mashat informed AFP on Sunday morning.
“The variety of ladies taking part within the Hajj this yr exceeds 40 %,” he added.
Mina sits in a slim valley surrounded by rocky mountains, and is remodeled annually into an unlimited encampment for pilgrims.
“Public well being groups are monitoring the well being standing of pilgrims across the clock upon their arrival in Mecca,” mentioned Sari Asiri, director of the hajj and umrah division on the well being ministry.
Anybody discovered to be contaminated could be taken to isolation amenities, he added.
Within the excessive level of the hajj, worshippers will on Monday climb Mount Arafat.
Often known as the “Mount of Mercy”, it’s the web site the place it’s believed that the Prophet Mohammed delivered his closing sermon.
Worshippers will undertake hours of prayers and Koranic recitals.
After descending the next day, they may collect pebbles and carry out the symbolic “stoning of the satan”.
The hajj, normally one of many world’s largest annual spiritual gatherings, is likely one of the 5 pillars of Islam and have to be undertaken by all Muslims with the means no less than as soon as of their lives.
This yr’s pilgrimage is bigger than the pared-down model staged in 2020 however drastically smaller than in regular instances, creating resentment amongst Muslims overseas who’re barred as soon as once more.
Individuals had been chosen from greater than 558,000 candidates by a web based vetting system, with the occasion confined to completely vaccinated adults aged 18-65 with no power sicknesses, in line with the hajj ministry.
“I thank God that we acquired approval to come back, though we didn’t anticipate it due to the small variety of pilgrims,” mentioned Abdulaziz bin Mahmoud, an 18-year-old Saudi.
Saddaf Ghafour, a 40-year-old Pakistani lady travelling along with her good friend, was among the many growing variety of ladies making the pilgrimage and not using a male “guardian”, which was a requirement till lately.
“It’s a privilege to carry out hajj amongst a really restricted variety of pilgrims,” she mentioned.
Saudi Arabia has up to now recorded greater than 507,000 coronavirus infections, together with over 8,000 deaths. Some 20 million vaccine doses have been administered within the nation of over 34 million folks.
The hajj, which generally packs giant crowds into congested spiritual websites, is probably a super-spreader occasion for the virus.
However the hajj ministry has mentioned it’s engaged on the “highest ranges of well being precautions” in mild of the pandemic and the emergence of latest variants.
Pilgrims are being divided into teams of simply 20 “to limit any publicity to solely these 20, limiting the unfold of an infection”, ministry undersecretary Mohammad al-Bijawi mentioned.
Except for strict social distancing measures, authorities have launched a “sensible hajj card” to permit contact-free entry to camps, resorts and the buses to ferry pilgrims round spiritual websites.
The hajj went forward final yr on the smallest scale in fashionable historical past.
Authorities initially mentioned only one,000 pilgrims could be allowed, though native media mentioned as much as 10,000 ultimately took half.
No infections had been reported as authorities arrange a number of well being amenities, cell clinics and ambulances to cater for the pilgrims, who had been taken to the spiritual websites in small batches.