Health Hazard Hampers Holy Hajj
Saudi Arabia on Saturday announced it would once again bar foreigners from entering the country to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage due to coronavirus concerns, marking the second straight year the kingdom has closed its gates during the one of the most anticipated events of the Muslim calendar. Only 60,000 citizens and residents will be allowed to visit the Kaaba Stone in Mecca, believed to have fallen from the skies and later set in place by the Prophet Muhammad. Still, the figure is a significant improvement from last year, when only 1,000 worshipers were allowed inside the holy site. The hajj is a mandatory duty expected to be performed at least once in a lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the trip while also caring for his or her family back home. Over 2.5 million Muslims would attend the week-long event in Mecca and the secondary, year-round pilgrimage in Umrah in pre-pandemic years on average, netting Saudi Arabia approximately $12 billion a year.