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Photo shows an aerial view of the Clock Tower and the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca.(Xinhua/Wangbo)

In normal times, the season of Haj pilgrimage is a large scale international affair for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But this year, due to the pandemic situation, it has all got subdued into a domestic process as the nation decided not to take in international pilgrims.

Saudi Arabia announced on Saturday the arrival of pilgrims to the new King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah from the country’s five cities for the annual Haj season.

According to the Haj and Umrah Ministry, the pilgrims arrived on Saturday from Medina, Riyadh, Abha, Tabuk and Jazan with tight health procedures, the state-run Saudi Press Agency said.

Of the domestic pilgrims, expats of 160 nationalities account for 70 per cent, reports Xinhua news agency.

Throughout the Haj season, there would be comprehensive coordination between concerned organizations for the safety of pilgrims, the Ministry’s undersecretary for Hajj Affairs Hussain Al Shareef said.

As of Sunday, Saudi Arabia has reported a total of 264,973 COVID-19 cases, with 2,703 deaths.

This is not the first time Saudi Arabia has restricted participation in the pilgrimage.

Between 2014 and 2016, Muslim faithful from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and several other African countries were excluded from the Haj due to Ebola.

The Haj represents an important source of income, typically generating between $5.3 billion and $6.9 billion for the local economy, according to Mecca’s chamber of commerce.

In 2019, nearly 2.5 million Muslims performed the Haj, including more than 600,000 Saudis, according to official figures.

The annual pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam, which every Muslim must perform at least once if his or her physical and financial state allows.

Also Read: Haj: 70% Pilgrims Will Be Foreign Residents

Also Read: Pilgrims Of 160 Nationalities Apply For Haj

Read More: Haj: Pilgrims begin home isolation

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