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Saudi receives first foreign hajj pilgrims since before pandemic

Indonesian pilgrims prepare to depart from Juanda International Airport in Surabaya on 4 June 2022, for the first time since the absence of the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia for several years during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

Usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, about 2.5 million people participated in 2019.

But after the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Saudi authorities announced they would only let 1,000 pilgrims take part.

The following year, they increased the total to 60,000 fully vaccinated Saudi citizens and residents chosen through a lottery.

Barring overseas pilgrims caused deep disappointment among Muslims worldwide, who typically save for years to take part.

The hajj consists of a series of religious rites that are completed over five days in Islam’s holiest city, Mecca, and surrounding areas of western Saudi Arabia.

Hosting the hajj is a matter of prestige for Saudi rulers, as the custodianship of Islam’s holiest sites is the most powerful source of their political legitimacy.

This year’s pilgrimage will be limited to vaccinated Muslims under age 65, the hajj ministry has said.

Those coming from outside Saudi Arabia, who must apply for hajj visas, are required to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR result from a test taken within 72 hours of travel.

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