More than 1.5 million foreign pilgrims arrive in Makkah for Hajj - GulfToday

More than 1.5 million foreign pilgrims arrive in Makkah for Hajj


Muslim worshippers pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. AFP

Muslim pilgrims have been streaming into Saudi Arabia's holy city of Makkah ahead of the start of the Hajj later this week, as the annual pilgrimage returns to its monumental scale.

Saudi officials say more than 1.5 million foreign pilgrims have arrived in the country by Tuesday, the vast majority by air, from across the world. More are expected, and hundreds of thousands of Saudis and others living in Saudi Arabia will also join them when the pilgrimage officially begins on Friday.

Saudi Government agencies in Madinah are intensifying efforts as the 5th of the month of Dhu Al-Hijjah (Tuesday, 11th June) is the peak day for transferring remaining pilgrims from Madinah to Makkah by bus round the clock, through the designated stations and the Mosque of Miqat Dhu Al-Hulayfah, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Tuesday.

Today, Hijra Road in Madinah will witness much movement as pilgrims will be transported to Makkah, supported by security and health services to ensure organised transportation.

General Syndicate of Cars Madinah branch Director Mazen Tharwat told the SPA that the syndicate mobilised all cadres and vehicles to prepare the buses transporting pilgrims to the holy sites. He added that field teams and mobile maintenance workshops are in place along the Hijra Road linking Madinah and Makkah, and that support centres supervise the flow of pilgrim bus movement to Makkah.

Muslim worshippers walk at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Makkah on Tuesday. AFP

Tharwat further said that more than 1,700 buses were ready to leave Madinah for Makkah, having been inspected by a specialised technical team to ensure that pilgrims enjoy a comfortable ride.

Ban on unauthorised vehicles

Meanwhile, the Saudi Public Security has announced that unauthorised vehicles will be denied entry to Holy Sites during Hajj, effective from midnight on the fifth of Dhu Al-Hijjah until the end of the 13th day.

According to the Public Security, individuals transporting pilgrims without valid Hajj permits will face imprisonment for up to six months and a fine of up to SAR50,000 for each unauthorised pilgrim transported. Once the case is referred to court that may rule confiscation of the vehicle used and deportation of the transporter (if a resident) with a subsequent entry ban for a period determined by the system.

Pilgrims without valid Hajj permits will be fined SAR10,000. For residents, this will be followed by deportation and a temporary entry ban as outlined by the system.

The Public Security emphasised the importance of adhering to Hajj regulations and instructions to ensure a secure, safe, and comfortable environment for all pilgrims.

Saudi officials have said they expect the number of pilgrims this year to exceed 2023, when more than 1.8 million people performed Hajj, approaching pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, more than 2.4 million Muslims made the pilgrimage.

Pilgrims hold umbrellas while walking ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. AFP

On Tuesday, pilgrims thronged the Grand Mosque in Makkah, performing a ritual circuit walking seven times around the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure inside the mosque that is considered Islam's holiest site. They wore ihrams, two unstitched sheets of white cloth that resemble a shroud.

Many were seen carrying umbrellas against the sun, in temperatures reaching 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) during the day on Tuesday.

"I was relieved when I arrived at the Al-Masjid Al-Haram and saw the Kaaba,” said Rabeia al-Raghi, a Moroccan woman who came to Makkah for Hajj along with her husband and their daughter. "I am very happy.”

At night, the vast marble court around the Kaaba was packed with the faithful, walking nearly shoulder to shoulder and often jostling with barricades set up by security forces to direct the giant flows of people in and around the Grand Mosque.

Pilgrims do the circumambulation, known as "Tawaf” in Arabic, upon arriving in Makkah. The large crowds circling the Kaaba will last into the Hajj’s first day.

Muslim pilgrims arrive to Saudi Arabia's holy city of Makkah on Tuesday ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. AFP

On Friday, pilgrims will move to the Mountain of Arafat for a daylong vigil, then to Muzdalifah, a rocky plain area a few miles away. In Muzdalifa, pilgrims collect pebbles to be used in the symbolic stoning of pillars representing the devil back in Mina.

One of the world’s largest religious gatherings, the Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. All Muslims are required to undertake it at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to do so.

Those in the Hajj view the pilgrimage as an opportunity to strengthen their faith, wipe out old sins and start new.





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