Saudi Arabia Receives First Foreign Hajj Pilgrims Since Before Pandemic
i24 News – Saudi Arabia on Saturday welcomed its first batch of hajj pilgrims since before the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted authorities to sharply restrict the annual ritual.
The group from Indonesia landed in the city of Medina and was set to travel south to the holy city of Mecca in the coming weeks to prepare for the hajj next month, state media reported.
“Today we received the first group of this year’s pilgrims from Indonesia, and the flights will continue from Malaysia and India,” Mohammed al-Bijawi of the country’s Hajj Ministry told the state-run Al-Ekhbariya channel.
“Today we are happy to receive the guests of God from outside the kingdom, after a two-year interruption due to the pandemic,” he added, describing Saudi Arabia as “fully prepared” to accommodate them.
One of the five pillars of Islam, the hajj must be undertaken by all Muslims who have the means at least once in their lives.
Usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, about 2.5 million people participated in 2019.
But after the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Saudi authorities announced they would only let 1,000 pilgrims take part.
Barring overseas pilgrims caused deep disappointment among Muslims worldwide, who typically save for years to take part.