Makkah: Over 20 lakh Hajj pilgrims started performing on Sunday afternoon the ritual of Tawaf Al-Qudum (Tawaf of Arrival), before their moving into Mina to mark the beginning of the annual pilgrimage of Hajj on Monday, the Day of Tarwiyah.
The Saudi authorities and Hajj missions of various countries have completed mammoth preparations and foolproof and flawless arrangements for a hassle-free Hajj while pilgrims are engaged in final preparations to set out for the tent city of Mina at the start of their lifetime spiritual journey.
The streets of Makkah were flooded with tents of thousands of pilgrims of all nationalities, after Saudi Arabia allowed the Hajj to be performed this year without any restrictions on the number and ages of pilgrims.
Those pilgrims who arrived in Makkah on Sunday performed Tawaf Al-Qudoom, one of the obligatory rituals of Hajj, before heading for the vast sprawling tent city of Mina.
Those pilgrims, who had arrived in Makkah earlier, are engaged in making final preparations before moving into the tent city on Sunday evening.
After three years of limited pilgrimages, the holy city is once again crowded with pilgrims. There is no foothold in the bustling markets and restaurants that were almost empty during the pandemic period.
The streets around the Grand Mosque are filled with thousands of pilgrims, who prayed on colorful carpets in front of hotels and shops. The pilgrims in seamless white Ihram clothes circumambulated the Holy Kaaba.
Many of the pilgrims carried umbrellas to protect from the scorching sun, while others were praying and supplicating on the white marble floors that smelled of musk.
Fire trucks with their distinctive yellow colors are also scattered throughout the Grand Mosque, and policemen have set up checkpoints and patrolled on foot, carrying white umbrellas for protection from the sun.
The security men stood spraying water on the pilgrims exhausted from the heat, and some of them spread out on the squares adjacent to the gates of the Grand Mosque.
Inside the Grand Mosque, paramedics stood ready in various locations, while young volunteers pushing wheelchairs that were waiting in a long line to help the elderly and the sick who could not walk long distances.
All around the holy place, workers in green clothes distributed cold water bottles, and others sprayed refreshing spray from cylinders tied around their backs. Many pilgrims put the names and flags of their countries on their clothes. Asian and African participants wore distinctive colored abayas.
Starting Sunday evening, pilgrims would move in large numbers to Mina, about 5 km from the Grand Mosque, to spend the Day of Tarwiyah in their tents. The pilgrims perform the Dhuhr, Asr, and Isha prayers in Mina at their designated times but in shortened form. The Maghrib prayer, which cannot be shortened, is performed as usual.
The pilgrims would spend the day and night engaged in supplications and prayers in their tents. After performing the Fajr prayer on Tuesday, they start leaving Mina and head to Arafat for the ‘wuqoof Arafat’ ritual, one of the four pillars of Hajj, which marks the peak of the annual pilgrimage.
Pilgrims’ numbers more than double of last year
More than 20 lakh pilgrims are expected to perform Hajj this year and this figure is more than double the number of pilgrims performed Hajj in 2022 but less than the number of pilgrims performed Hajj in 2019.
More than 1.62 million pilgrims from outside the Kingdom have already arrived, according to what the Saudi authorities announced on Friday evening. The exact figure of the pilgrims from inside Saudi Arabia have not yet been announced.
Last year, the total number of pilgrims who performed Hajj stood at 9.26 lakh and these included 7.81 lakh from abroad, two years after it was limited to a few thousand domestic pilgrims alone, due to the coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, about 25 lakh Muslims from all over the world performed Hajj.
All the ministries and government and private agencies and security personnel have completed their preparations to enable the pilgrims to perform their rituals in ease and comfort. Despite the huge numbers of pilgrims heading to holy sites in vehicles and on foot, thousands of officers from various security wings would follow up and organize their movement through the roads, tunnels and bridges that are constantly being developed by the Saudi government over the years.
The Ministry of Health has readied as many as 32 hospitals and 140 health centers with all the facilities and services to extend the best possible medical services for the guests of God in Makkah and the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. The authorities have set up many health facilities and mobile clinics, equipped ambulances, and deployed 32,000 paramedics to meet the needs of the pilgrims.