In years before the coronavirus, some three million white-clad pilgrims from across the world flocked to Islam's holiest sites to attend Haj under Saudi Arabia's blistering sun.
With the pandemic making large gatherings impossible, only a few thousand pilgrims — Saudis and foreign residents — are gathering this year on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat for the most important ritual.
“Everyone will be praying for this pandemic to end, and for all the people of the world to see better months to come after all the suffering caused by coronavirus,” said Ammar Khaled, a 29-year-old Indian pilgrim who is an IT professional in Jeddah.
Pilgrims took several medical tests and were asked to quarantine for a week before starting their journey, then isolate for another week in their hotel rooms. They were given an electronic bracelet to monitor their movements and a suitcase containing all basic necessities.
Header image: Muslim pilgrims maintain social distancing as they circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage in Makkah on July 29. — Reuters