AGENCIES | Aljazeera – The annual Hajj pilgrimage has kicked off in Saudi Arabia with only a few thousand people gathered on the Plain of Arafat on Monday for the start of the five-day-long rituals.
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and a once-in-a-lifetime duty for all able-bodied Muslims to perform if they can afford it.
In the years before the pandemic, about 2.5 million pilgrims from across the world flocked to Islam’s holiest site to attend the Hajj.
But because of coronavirus-related restrictions on large gatherings, no foreign pilgrims have been allowed to perform the Hajj again this year.
Only 60,000 vaccinated Saudi citizens and residents between the ages of 18 and 65 were allowed to register for the annual pilgrimage. The year before, up to 10,000 Saudi citizens and residents were permitted to perform the Hajj.
“I feel very lucky and truly blessed to be among the few people who’ll be performing the Hajj this year,” Amina told Al Jazeera.
The 50-something-year-old Saudi resident said she was going on the Hajj with a group of other women, after Saudi Arabia allowed females to register for the pilgrimage without a male guardian for the first time ever.