Mount Arafat: On Friday, on Mount Arafat, Saudi Arabia, a large crowd of Muslim pilgrims in robes prayed, the climax of the largest Mecca pilgrimage since the pandemic was forced to make significant cuts for the second consecutive year.

Many groups of worshipers, holding umbrellas against the fierce sun, quoted poems from the Koran in a rocky rise. There, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) gave his final sermon.

Prayer on Mount Arafat is a highlight of the pilgrimage, with a cap of 1 million this year, including 850,000 from abroad.

Many white robe pilgrims said, “Oh, I’m here” when I arrived at Mount Arafat on foot or by bus from a nearby tent.

After sunset, they travel a short distance to Muzdalifah, where they sleep under the stars and perform the iconic “devil’s stone” ceremony on Saturday.

“I’m very happy to be here … this is the biggest Mecca pilgrimage in the coronavirus era, but it’s not big enough yet,” Egyptian pilgrim Saad Farhat Khalil, 49, told AFP.

“There are 1 million people here today, but if Saudi Arabia allowed more, 10 million would have come,” he added.

The road at the entrance was full of worshipers as helicopters made noise overhead, volunteers handed out bottled water, and collected trash in green plastic bags.

Pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the largest annual religious gatherings in the world, is usually one of the five pillars of Islam and must be done by all Muslims at least once.

In 2019, as in the past, about 2.5 million Muslims from around the world participated, but by 2020 it had dropped to thousands and by 2021 it had dropped to 60,000.

This year, many world leaders participated, including the President of Mauritania and the Vice President of Indonesia. State media on Friday reported that Chechen influential Ramzan Kadyrov had arrived in the kingdom to perform a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Fear of Covid

At noon, thousands of pilgrims prayed at the Namira Mosque. The Prophet Mohammed preached there.

“In 2020 I thought I would never do a Mecca pilgrimage. It was like the end of time. But we are here today. God is wonderful,” said another Egyptian pilgrim. One Bassam Mohammed said.

Despite claims by Saudi authorities that masks are essential, large crowds have spurred concerns that Covid may spread, especially after many pilgrims go to Mecca’s Grand Mosque without face masks. I put it on.

Pilgrimage to Mecca is taking place against the backdrop of a resurgence in the region, and some Gulf countries have tightened regulations to curb outbreaks.

All participants were required to submit proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test. Upon arriving at Mina’s white tent camp on Thursday, they were handed a mask and a bag of disinfectant.

Dr. Muhammad al-Abduraari, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said at a press conference Thursday night that it is unclear whether extensive testing has been done, but so far the case of Covid among pilgrims. Said it was not detected.

“The health of pilgrims is encouraging and no outbreaks of public health-affecting illnesses have been recorded,” he said.

Heat warning

Pilgrimages can be physically exhausting even in ideal conditions, but this year’s worshipers faced the additional challenge of the sun and temperatures well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

On Friday, the temperature on Mount Arafat reached 44 degrees Celsius, the state-owned Al-Ekhbariya reported.

Islam prohibits men from wearing hats when the ritual begins, and many have been seen protecting themselves with umbrellas, prayer mats, and in some cases small buckets filled with water. rice field.

Women, on the other hand, are obliged to cover their heads with a scarf.

“We can withstand (heat) … the more we endure, the more our pilgrimage is accepted,” said Laila, a 64-year-old Iraqi pilgrim who gave her only name. I told AFP.

Saudi authorities have promoted preparations for extreme conditions, emphasizing the hundreds of hospital beds assigned to heat stroke patients and the “many misting fans” they provided.

Dozens of trucks distribute umbrellas, water bottles, and small fans.

Nonetheless, the National Meteorological Center, which has an office in Mina, warns pilgrims on their mobile phones and encourages them to avoid outdoor rituals at certain times of the day, especially at noon.

On Saturday, Muslim pilgrims will participate in “stoning”. This is the last major ritual of the Mecca pilgrimage, which previously led to a deadly stampede, as hundreds of thousands of people gather in a small space.

After the stoning ritual, the pilgrims return to the Grand Mosque in Mecca to perform the final “tawafu” or turn of the Kaaba, the cubic structure that is the focus of Islam.

Eid al-Adha, a sacrificial feast that begins on Saturday, marks the end of the Mecca pilgrimage.

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