Saudi Arabia receives first foreign Haj pilgrims since before pandemic

Published June 4, 2022
Pilgrims perform a scaled-down Haj in 2021. — AFP/File
Pilgrims perform a scaled-down Haj in 2021. — AFP/File

Saudi Arabia on Saturday welcomed its first batch of Haj pilgrims since before the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted authorities to sharply restrict the annual ritual.

The group from Indonesia landed in the city of Madina and was set to travel south to the holy city of Makkah in the coming weeks to prepare for the Haj 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 Haj 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.

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.

The following year, they increased the total to 60,000 fully vaccinated Saudi citizens and residents chosen through a lottery.

In pictures: Pilgrims mark second Haj overshadowed by Covid-19

Barring overseas pilgrims caused deep disappointment among Muslims worldwide, who typically save for years to take part.

In April, the kingdom announced it would permit one million Muslims from inside and outside the country to participate in this year's Haj, which will take place in July.

Hosting the Haj is a matter of prestige for Saudi rulers, as the custodianship of Islam's holiest sites is the most powerful source of their political legitimacy.

Before the pandemic, Muslim pilgrimages were major revenue earners for the kingdom, bringing in about $12 billion annually.

This year's pilgrimage will be limited to vaccinated Muslims under age 65, the Haj Ministry has said.

Those coming from outside Saudi Arabia, who must apply for Haj visas, are required to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR result from a test taken within 72 hours of travel.

Opinion

Editorial

System imbalance
Updated 29 Jun, 2022

System imbalance

Sagging under the weight of internal weaknesses, the political system once again seems to be wobbling towards disequilibrium.
BRICS exclusion
29 Jun, 2022

BRICS exclusion

FOR Pakistan’s sustained economic progress, it is essential for the country to maintain strong linkages with...
Covid resurgence
29 Jun, 2022

Covid resurgence

PAKISTAN is facing yet another wave of Covid-19 infections, with health experts predicting a surge in...
Sindh LG poll mess
Updated 28 Jun, 2022

Sindh LG poll mess

The ECP and the Sindh government share the blame for the electoral mismanagement witnessed on Sunday.
State apathy
28 Jun, 2022

State apathy

The minister would do well to revisit his stance before further damage is done to the fight for civil rights.
Lofty but fragile
28 Jun, 2022

Lofty but fragile

PAKISTAN is set for its busiest mountaineering season in over a decade, with over 1,400 climbers from across the...