On Sunday, tens of thousands of vaccinated Muslim pilgrims hovered in the holiest part of Islam in Mecca, but due to the impact of the coronavirus on Hajj for the second year in a row, they still maintained social distancing and wore masks.
It used to attract about 2.5 million Muslims from all walks of life from all over the world, but now the scale of the hajj is almost unrecognizable.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year and the last reduced hajj not only affects the ability of people outside Saudi Arabia to fulfill Islamic obligations, but also affects the billion-dollar website that Saudi Arabia obtains as a holy guardian each year.
The Islamic pilgrimage lasts about five days, but Muslims traditionally arrive in Mecca a few weeks earlier. The pilgrimage ends with the Eid al-Adha, marked by the distribution of meat to the poor all over the world.
Due to continued concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, 60,000 Saudi Arabian citizens or residents who have been vaccinated have been allowed to perform the Hajj this year. This number is much higher than last year’s main iconic hajj, when there were fewer than 1,000 people from within the kingdom.
The Saudi rulers of the kingdom bet its legitimacy to a large extent on their supervision of pilgrimage sites, which provides them with a unique and powerful platform among Muslims around the world. Despite the changes caused by the pandemic, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is still doing its best to ensure that the annual Hajj will not be interrupted.
Robots have been deployed to spray disinfectants around the busiest sidewalks of the cubic Kaaba. The pilgrimage of most people begins and ends here.
The cleaners disinfect the huge white marble space of the Grand Mosque that houses the Kaaba several times a day.
Olis Gul, a cleaner who has worked in Mecca for 20 years, said: “We are disinfecting the floor and using disinfectant, and we are cleaning two to three times during (each) shift.”
Hajj is one of the most important requirements of Islam, and it must be performed once in a lifetime. It follows the path taken by the Prophet Muhammad nearly 1,400 years ago, and is believed to eventually trace the footsteps of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail, or the biblical names of Abraham and Ishmael.