Manama : The annual Hajj pilgrimage began on Sunday in Makkah amid strict Covid-19 protocols including downsizing the number of pilgrims.
The pilgrims will gather at Mount Arafat on Monday for a vigil to atone for their sins and seek God's forgiveness as the Hajj pilgrimage reaches its height.
Hajj started on Sunday as pilgrims began their journey from the Grand Mosque (Masjid Al Haram) in Makkah to Mina to mark the day of Tarwiyah (Day of quenching thirst). Mina sits in a narrow valley surrounded by rocky mountains, some 7 km northeast of the Grand Mosque, and is transformed each year into a vast encampment for pilgrims.
They spent their time reciting the Qur’an, remembering God and performed Dhuhr, Asr, Maghrib and Isha in Mina. They also performed the Fajr prayer on Monday morning before heading to Mount Arafat.
The day of Arafat -the stand (wuqoof) of pilgrims on Mount Arafat- is considered the pinnacle of the Hajj and Muslims all around the world consider it a blessed day during which sins are forgiven and prayers are answered. They will return to Mina on Tuesday and spend the night in Muzdalifah. Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries will celebrate Eid Al Adha on Tuesday.
Earlier on Sunday, pilgrims performed Tawaf (circling the Kaaba) at the Grand Mosque in Makkah adhering to social distancing and other covid protocols before making their way to Mina.
Strict precautionary measures are being taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus for the second year running. The country has barred worshippers from abroad for a second year running due to the pandemic. Only 60,000 fully vaccinated citizens and residents from within Saudi Arabia are allowed to take part, far from the vast crowds that descend on Makkah in normal times when the ritual drew up to 25 lakh pilgrims.
Pilgrims were brought to Mina on 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.
The pilgrims, clad in white, were directed into the mosque in small groups, walking along paths marked on the floor.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah provided housing for pilgrims in the residential towers in Mina after taking preventive measures.
Last year, in a bid to curb the pandemic, only 10,000 pilgrims inside the country were selected to perform Hajj. More than 25 lakhs pilgrims performed the Hajj in 2019.