Mount Arafat Hosts The Largest Covid-Era Hajj
(Source By Pixabay)
MOUNT ARAFAT SAUDI ARABIA:
Hajj pilgrims arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday in the largest number
since the pandemic forced drastic cuts in numbers two years in a row.
On the rocky rise where the Prophet Muhammad is said to
have delivered his final sermon,
throngs of Muslims recited verses from
the Qur’an under the hot sun.
The pilgrimage highlights prayers on Mount Arafat,
also known as the “Mount of Mercy,”
are limited to one million people this year,
including 850,000 foreigners due to Covid’s drastically
reducing numbers over 2020 and 2021.
Many of the pilgrims traveled to Mount Arafat on foot
or in buses from the nearby tents where they spent the night,
chanting “Oh God, here I am” as they did so.
On Friday night, they will travel to Muzdalifah,
where they will camp under the stars until
Saturday when they will perform the symbolic
“stoning of the devil.”
“Like the rest of you,
I’m overjoyed to be here.
Egyptian pilgrim Saad Farhat Khalil, 49,
told AFP that while this is the largest Hajj in the coronavirus era,
it is still not large enough.
Ten million people would have arrived he continued,
had the Saudis permitted more people to come.
As helicopters buzzed overhead and volunteers
distributed water bottles and collected trash in
green plastic bags the entry roads were jam-packed
A sign on a big garbage can said
Let’s keep the purest of all lands clean.
One of the five pillars of Islam and typically one of the
largest annual religious gatherings in the world
the Hajj is something that every Muslim with the
means must do it at least once in their lifetime.
Around 2.5 million Muslims from around the world participated
in 2019, similar to previous years.
This number decreased to a few thousand
in 2020 and to 60,000 in 2021.
The Hajj is taking place against the backdrop of a
resurgence in the region, with some Gulf countries
tightening restrictions to keep outbreaks in check
despite the return of the crowds but continued Covid fears.
All participants had to provide documentation of their
full vaccination history and negative PCR results.
They received small bags containing masks and hand sanitizer
when they arrived at their white-tent camp at Mina on Thursday.
Even in good weather, the pilgrimage can be hard on your body
but this year, the hot sun and high temperatures
(42 degrees Celsius) have made it even harder (108 degrees Fahrenheit).
Men aren’t allowed to wear hats during Islamic rituals
so many have been seen covering their heads with umbrellas
prayer mats and even a small bucket filled with water in one case.
Women, on the other hand, must wear scarves over their heads.
“We can put up with (the heat).
The Hajj brought us here.
A 64-year-old Iraqi pilgrim who only gave her first name
Laila told AFP in Makkah, where the rituals began,
“The more we tolerate, the more our pilgrimage is accepted.”
Saudi officials have bragged about how well they are
prepared for the extreme conditions, pointing out that
they have set aside hundreds of hospital beds
for people who have heatstroke and given out
“a large number of misting fans.”
Also, a truck has been set aside to give out umbrellas,
water bottles, and small fans.
Still, the National Center for Meteorology has set up
an office in Mina and is sending warnings to pilgrims’
cell phones, telling them to avoid outdoor rituals at
certain times of the day, especially at noon.
On Saturday, Muslim pilgrims will take part in the “stoning,
The last major ritual of the Hajj. In the past, this has led
to deadly stampedes as hundreds of thousands of people
gather in a small area.
After the stoning ceremony, pilgrims go back to the Grand Mosque
in Makkah to make a final “tawaf,” or circle, around the Kaaba
which is a cube covered in black cloth with gold embroidery
and is the center of Islam.
Hajj comes to an end with Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice,
which starts on Saturday.