Riyadh, Jul 8 (EFE).- Following two years of subdued celebrations due to the pandemic, Muslim pilgrims returned Friday to Mount Arafat, a granodiorite hill located some 22 kilometers from Mecca, to carry out the second and main day of the Hajj pilgrimage.
Islam’s most important annual event has significantly grown this year after the pilgrimage was limited to domestic travelers for the past two years due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Last year, the Hajj was curtailed to around 60,000 fully vaccinated Saudis and Muslim residents.
The million believers authorized to make this year’s Hajj arrived at Mount Arafat from the neighboring valley of Mina, where rituals began on Thursday.
Dressed in the white and under scorching heat that exceeded 44C, the pilgrims performed the rite of Al-Waqfa (The Sojourn), by which Muslims atone for their sins.
Mount Arafat — which means “knowledge” in Arabic — is the place where the prophet Mohammed delivered his farewell sermon during his last pilgrimage to Mecca in 632.
After climbing the hill, tens of thousands of worshippers went to the Al Namira Mosque, with a capacity of over 300,000 people, to listen to Friday’s sermon, which this year was given by Saudi’s former minister of justice and current secretary general of the Muslim World League, Mohamed Al Issa, considered one of the most moderate Islamic scholars.
Although Saudi Arabia has increased the number of people allowed to take part in this year’s event to one million, including 850,000 from abroad, it pales in comparison to pre-pandemic times when 2.5 million Muslims would flock annually for the Hajj, Islam’s largest congregation.
People under 65 years old who have received Covi-19 vaccines are permitted to perform the rites this year.
According to Saudi authorities, no coronavirus cases or stampedes, which in 2015 left some 2,000 people dead, have been reported so far.EFE