Migrant Haj pilgrims rejoice after two years of COVID-19 absenceSEXI News

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Mecca: Among the thousands of Muslims who arrived in Mecca this week for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, perhaps none had a more difficult journey than Adam Mohammed, 53, an electrical engineer from the United Kingdom.

Mohamed, who is of Iraqi-Kurdish descent, decided to travel to Saudi Arabia last year on foot, a journey of more than 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) that took him from Jordan to nine countries before crossing into a northwestern Saudi city. Took through. Tabuk.

Muslim pilgrims arrive outside the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on July 5 - AFP
Muslim pilgrims arrive outside the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 5 – AFP

The journey was made more dramatic by the fact that when he began his journey 11 months earlier, pushing a cart in front of him containing his food and other supplies, not knowing that he would be able to reach the holy mosques Or not in Mecca and Medina.

It was only in April that Saudi Arabia, which banned foreign pilgrims in 2020 and 2021 as part of efforts to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic, announced that a million Muslims would be able to participate this year, including 850,000 from abroad.

A Muslim pilgrim walks outside the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia in July.  — AFP
A Muslim pilgrim walks outside the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia in July. — AFP

Now safely in Mecca, Mohammed has no regrets, about 15 kilograms (33 lb) lighter than when he started.

“I cried when I first arrived. It’s an incredible feeling,” he told AFP.

“My journey was exhausting. I stopped at several places for rest. But I was focused on one thing: I’m 53, so what if I left 11 months on the road to reach God’s house? Shall I? It’s possible.”

Pilgrims are pictured on the Jabal al-Noor 'mountain of light', overlooking the holy city of Mecca.  — AFP
Pilgrims are pictured on the Jabal al-Noor ‘mountain of light’, overlooking the holy city of Mecca. — AFP

Mohamed said Saudi authorities have allowed him and his wife and two daughters, who have flown from Britain to the Gulf Kingdom, to participate in the Hajj, which includes a series of religious rites performed in Mecca and the surrounding areas of western Saudi Arabia. The series completes. ,

Most of the other foreigners who perform the rituals have been selected through a lottery system.

Muslim pilgrims arrive outside the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on July 5 - AFP
Muslim pilgrims arrive outside the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 5 – AFP

‘it’s my dream’

One of the five pillars of Islam, Hajj should be performed by all able-bodied Muslims who have the means at least once in their lives.

But pandemic restrictions have forced countless pilgrims based outside Saudi Arabia to put their plans on hold.

A female pilgrim prays atop Jabal al-Noor or 'Mountain of Light'.  — AFP
A female pilgrim prays atop Jabal al-Noor or ‘Mountain of Light’. — AFP

Usually one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, about 2.5 million people attended in 2019 before the pandemic began.

The following year, foreigners were barred and the total number of worshipers was limited to 10,000 to prevent the Hajj from turning into a global super-spreader.

Muslim worshipers offer Isha prayers at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  — AFP
Muslim worshipers offer Isha prayers at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. — AFP

In 2021 this figure rose to 60,000 fully vaccinated Saudi citizens and residents.

Hosting the Hajj is a matter of prestige and a powerful source of legitimacy for Saudi rulers.

Muslim worshipers pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  — AFP
Muslim worshipers pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. — AFP

The ban on foreign pilgrims caused deep frustration among Muslims around the world, who usually save up for years to attend.

Although the numbers are much higher this year, there are some restrictions: Participants must be Muslims under 65 years of age who have been fully vaccinated and a negative COVID-19 PCR result from a test done within 72 hours of travel. can present.

A Muslim worshiper prays with his hands towards the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  — AFP
A Muslim worshiper prays with his hands towards the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. — AFP

Hajj officially begins on Wednesday, and Mecca is already over with worshipers who, like Mohammed, are relieved to finally reach their destination after a long, stressful wait.

A 30-year-old Russian pilgrim, who gave her name as Halima, said she had envisioned living in Mecca for more than a decade.

Muslim worshipers pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.  — AFP
Muslim worshipers pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. — AFP

Hajj costs at least $5,000 per person, and Halima said she shared her story with friends to raise money for both her and her father’s visit.

“Yesterday was the first time I saw the Kaaba,” he said, referring to the large black cube structure in the center of the Grand Mosque.

Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on July 5, 2022.  - AFP
Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on July 5, 2022. – AFP

“It’s my dream to be here, and now I’m living it.”

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