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Muslims take part in hajj pilgrimage under shadow of coronavirus

Masked pilgrims arrived Thursday at Mount Arafat, a desert hill near Islam’s holiest site, to pray and repent on the most important day of the hajj, the annual pilgrimage in Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The global coronavirus pandemic has cast a shadow over every aspect of this year’s pilgrimage, which last year drew 2.5 million Muslims from across the world to Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon nearly 1,400 years ago.

Only a very limited number of pilgrims were allowed to take part in the hajj amid numerous restrictions to limit the potential spread of the coronavirus.

The Saudi government has not released a final figure on the number of hajj pilgrims this year, but has said anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 would be taking part. All of this year’s pilgrims are either residents or citizens of Saudi Arabia.

In past years, a sea of pilgrims dressed in white terrycloth garments would start to gather at Mount Arafat, or hill of mercy as it’s known, before dawn and remain there until nightfall, spending the day in deep contemplation and worship.

International media were not allowed to cover the hajj from Mecca as was customary in past years. Instead, state-run Saudi TV has carried a live broadcast of some parts of the hajj, including Thursday’s arrival of pilgrims to Namira Mosque in Arafat where a sermon will be delivered.

Muslim pilgrims enter Namira Mosque in Arafat as they keep social distance to protect themselves against coronavirus during the annual hajj pilgrimage near the holy city of Mecca


Muslim pilgrims enter Namira Mosque in Arafat, as they wear masks and keep social distance to protect themselves against coronavirus, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca