By Umamah Bakharia
As Saudi Arabia has been receiving its first Hajj pilgrims after Covid-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions, there has been only excitement beaming from the pilgrims.
In a discussion on Radio Islam on Hajj talking points, Hafiz Ebrahim Moosa says, “this year is being characterised as being the first Hajj with much less restrictions compared to previous years.”
In 2019, Saudi Arabia saw the last “normal Hajj” with approximately 2 million pilgrims before the pandemic hit. In 2020, there was a drastic drop with only 1 000 pilgrims allowed from inside Saudi Arabia, in 2021 the number improved to 60 000. In April, Saudi Arabia announced it would allow one million people – from both inside and outside the kingdom – to perform the Hajj in 2022.
However, the Kingdom announced that this would be restricted to people under 65 years of age, pilgrims have to be vaccinated and the different quotas that are in place in different countries of the world. “While initially the quota for foreign pilgrims was closer to the 2 million mark, here we have this year the actual pertage of foreign Muslims who will be performing Hajj are only at about 45% of their original quota,” says Hafiz Ebrahim.
He adds that the biggest heartbreak for the pilgrims this year will have to do with older people who have been anticipating this moment. As a result of worldwide inflation, Ukraine’s war and Saudi Arabia’s taxes have contributed to the high cost of Hajj this year.
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.