Mecca set to reopen for pilgrimages after pausing for 7 months
Muslim’s holy places will be opened in Saudi Arabia for the year-round Umrah pilgrimage on Sunday.
The Umrah pilgrimage that can be done any time usually attracts millions of people all over the world.
Saudi Arabia suspended it in March over fears that the coronavirus could spread to Islam’s holiest cities.
It however disclosed that it will now be opened in three stages.
The initial phase will accommodate only 6,000 citizens and residents already within the kingdom on each day.
Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten told state television last week that “in the first stage, the Umrah will be performed meticulously and within a specified period of time,”.
The pilgrims will be divided into groups in order to allow social distancing within the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
On Sunday, worshippers will be able to go round the Kaaba to perform the ritual of circling.
This will be done along socially distanced paths.
The number of pilgrims will be increased to 15,000 per day and a maximum of 40,000 people will be allowed to pray at the mosque from October 18
From November 1, visitors from other countries will be allowed in as capacity will be increased to 20,000 pilgrims, with 60,000 people allowed into the mosque.
The interior ministry said the decision to reopen the pilgrimage was prompted by “aspirations of Muslims home and abroad” to perform rituals and visit the holy sites.
It also said that the Umrah would be allowed to operate in full capacity once the pandemic is over.
Those interested in performing the Umrah must apply through two mobile applications: one to register they are free from the virus, and another from which they can obtain a permit.
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