SAUDI ARABIA. Mecca which is considered as Islam’s holiest site is all set to open its door for the pilgrims from around the world. However, only citizens from Saudi will be allowed to enter the mosque during the first phase of reopening.
Meanwhile, a person will be provided only three hours to complete the pilgrimage. Few people donning the white terrycloth garment (symbol of the Muslim pilgrimage) were seen in Mecca on Sunday.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia lifted the COVID-19 restrictions after several months. The Saudi government is allowing a maximum of 6,000 pilgrims a day to enter the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
Mecca reopens for Umrah pilgrimage
Mecca had decided to suspend the smaller “Umrah” pilgrimage in March. Meanwhile,the Grand Mosque is being sterilized and cleaned multiple times in a single day. Kaaba, the cube-shaped site where observant Muslims pray five times a day is also disinfected every day. Several guidelines have been issued by the authorities in Mecca.
Visitors can reserve a specific time and date through the online application to enter the mosque and perform the umrah. They can also decide their means of transportation and meeting points through the same app.
On Sunday, around 50 people were seen circling the Kaaba at the same time and walking several feet apart. Typically, the mosque would be packed with millions of worshippers around the world during day and night.
The second phase of COVID-19 unlock in Mecca
The second phase for loosening restrictions at the Grand Mosque will come into effect from October 18. According to the reports, around 15,000 pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to offer prayers in Mecca.
Muslim travellers from outside Saudi Arabia could be allowed to perform the umrah pilgrimage from November 1. Now, Saudi Arabia has started to ease some restrictions on international flights.
Mecca held a dramatically downsized, symbolic hajj pilgrimage in July due to concerns that it could easily have become a global super-spreader event for the virus. The pilgrims were selected through an online portal.
More than two million pilgrims applied through the online portal. But, only 1,000 pilgrims took part in the pilgrimage after being tested for the virus.
Despite taking early precautionary measures to contain the COVID-19 virus, Saudi Arabia has recorded nearly 336,000 cases and 4,850 deaths.