A man burns incense at the area around the Kaaba, the square structure in the Great Mosque, toward which believers turn when praying, is prepared for pilgrims, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Picture: Saudi Ministry of Media via AP

Muslim pilgrims return to Mecca following Covid-19 lockdown

CAPE TOWN –Saudi Arabia partially lifted the Coronavirus ban to allow Muslim pilgrims to perform Umrah in Mecca.

Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage that can be done at any time of the year, while Hajj is held once a year.

Thousands of worshippers entered the holy city in batches to perform their ritual around the Kaaba – a cubic structure towards which Muslims around the pray.

Saudi Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten said it will be revived in three phases, allowing  6 000 pilgrims per day during the first stage.

He added that each group of 20 to 25 pilgrims will be accompanied by a health worker and that medical teams will be on the ground in case of emergencies.

Meanwhile, visitors from abroad will be allowed to return in November during the third stage when capacity will be raised to more than 20 000.


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