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ReligionSaudi Arabia

Millions reach Mecca for huge Hajj in Saudi heat

June 23, 2023

Nearly 2 million people are expected to take part in the Hajj pilgrimage — the biggest in years. It's also the first to take place without restrictions following the coronavirus pandemic.

Muslims perform their Umrah as they start arriving to perform the annual Hajj in the Grand Mosque.
Muslims perform their Umrah as they start arriving to perform the annual Hajj in the Grand MosqueImage: Saudi Press Agency/REUTERS

Millions of worshippers have reached Mecca — Islam's holiest city — for the biggest Hajj pilgrimage in years, despite the sweltering Saudi Arabian heat. 

According to Saudi officials, nearly 1.5 million foreign pilgrims have arrived in the country so far for the annual pilgrimage. 

Authorities have said that they expect the number of pilgrims in 2023 to reach pre-pandemic levels as this year's Hajj will be the first without the curbs imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.

'Largest Islamic gathering in history'

In 2019, close to 2.5 million people took part in the pilgrimage. COVID-19 regulations brought that number down to about 10,000 in 2020, then 60,000 in 2021 and 926,000 in 2022.

"As the Hajj draws near, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia prepares... for the largest Islamic gathering in history," Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said in a video posted by the ministry earlier this week.

More pilgrims are expected to arrive before Hajj begins on Monday.

Rabiah said 2 million people from over 160 countries will attend the rituals this year. 

Meanwhile, on Friday, pilgrims in white robes and sandals were seen dotting the holy city as they came in on planes, buses and trains.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and all Muslims with the means are required to undertake it at least once in their lives. 

Muslims begin largest Hajj in two years

dvv/sms (AFP, AP)