Coronavirus has severely affected everything across the world. It has changed the way of life entirely with many restrictions that are to be taken at every step to ensure our safety and that of the people around us. Nothing has been exempted from this precautionary tale, not even the festivals and traditions etc.
One of the many such stories we have heard since the beginning of the pandemic is that of the hajj taking place in a scaled-down manner in Saudi Arabia to ensure no spread of the virus. This scaled-down hajj is all set to be repeated this year with the ongoing pandemic scenario with the pilgrims streaming out the holy city of Mecca this Sunday.
Precautions that are being taken
With an aim to ensure that all the COVID related measures are being taken, Saudi Arabia is only allowing 60,000 people to join the hajj in Mecca compared to around 2.5 million pilgrims who used to visit it in normal times. As per the hajj ministry guidelines, only those who are fully vaccinated and do not suffer from any chronic illness were selected from the 558,000 applications received. The selection of the participants has been made through an online vetting system with an age restriction of 18-65 years.
Apart from this, all the health precautions are well taken, with a facility of self-isolation being well available for anyone who suffers from symptoms or tests positive with the virus. To ensure that social distancing is followed at all times, there has been a “smart hajj card” given to all the pilgrims for their access to facilities like camps, hotels, buses etc., so that management can ensure the contact-free process of everything.
The “tawaf” at Mecca’s Grand Mosque has been performed since Saturday around the Kaaba, a cubic structure covered by a black cloth with golden embroidery towards which Muslims pray from all across the world. With the pilgrims being on their way to the Valley of Mina, where they will spend the night, they will proceed to the high point of hajj with them climbing Mount Arafat. Mount Arafat is also called the “Mount of Mercy”. It is believed that this place is a site from where the Prophet Mohammed went to deliver his final sermon. Pilgrims will do prayers and Koranic recitals at this site.