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The Mecca returns to host the Hajj holiday

The religious capital of Islam prepares to welcome a million Muslims after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic
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PHOTO/AFP  -   Muslim worshippers and pilgrims (in white) pray around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 6 July 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage

One of the most important dates for Muslims has begun: the Hajj holiday, known as "the holy pilgrimage". Mecca, considered the holiest city in Islam, will host from 7 July to 14 July a million pilgrims who, moved by faith, will fulfil one of their most sacred obligations.

After two years of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mecca is preparing to host a massive pilgrimage in which, due to the high number of pilgrims, security measures will be maximised in order to avoid altercations and accidents. Also, foreign pilgrims who come to this holy place must present a negative PCR, in addition to wearing a mask inside the Grand Mosque.

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AFP/DELIL  SOULEIMAN - Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 6 July 2022

In this regard, the Saudi Ministry of Health has prepared 23 hospitals and 147 health centres in both Mecca and Medina, the second holiest city, in case pilgrims from anywhere in the world have any health problems.

In addition, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, in collaboration with the General Authority for Awqaf, has launched a total of 13 electronic handbooks that provide detailed advice for pilgrims to Mecca. The handbooks are available in 14 languages, including French, Turkish, Persian, Urdu, Russian and Amharic.

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AFP/DELIL  SOULEIMAN - Muslim pilgrims arrive in Mina, near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on 7 July 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage

The ministry explained in a video shared on Twitter that "these electronic guidance manuals are interactive" and include "Shariah, organisational and health procedural directives that pilgrims will need during their Hajj journey".

The importance of Mecca for Islam

According to the fifth pillar of Islam, every Muslim who is in good health and has sufficient financial means should make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his lifetime. For Muslims this city is of paramount importance as it was here that the Prophet Muhammad was born and it was the place where the Quran, the holy book of Islam, was revealed to him through dreams and apparitions. 

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AFP/CHRISTINA ASSI - A picture taken on 5 July 2022 shows the tents set up to accommodate pilgrims in Mina, near the Muslim holy city of Mecca, on 5 July 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage

On this pilgrimage the faithful make their way to the Ka'ba. This holy place, characterised by its cube shape, is located in the Masjid al-Haram Mosque and is considered to be 'the house of God, where the sacred touches the earthly'. It is also towards the Ka'ba where Muslims orient themselves for prayer. According to The Quran, since Muhammad fled to Mecca, in what is known as the Hegira (the year used as the origin in the Muslim calendar), all Muslims direct their prayers here. Initially, the believers prayed towards Jerusalem, but with Muhammad's migration to Mecca, they changed their orientation and finally settled on this city.

Moreover, according to The Quran, Abraham and Ismail laid the foundations of the structure, which is why it is considered to be the first temple dedicated to a God.

On this first day, some of the faithful have already approached the Ka' ba to perform the first rituals of the pilgrimage. The first of these consists of walking a total of seven times around the Kaaba structure in a counter-clockwise direction, a rite that is considered to be pre-Islamic and which simulates the movement that the angels would make around the throne of God. They then proceed to drink water from Zam Zam, the holy well located in the Masjid al-Haram mosque, a water that holds mystical symbolism as it is capable of purifying and cleansing sins.

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AFP/CHRISTINA ASSI - One million fully vaccinated Muslims, including 850,000 from abroad, are allowed to participate in this year's Hajj in the city of Mecca

The next rites consist of a tour of the Safa and Marwa hills and return to the mosque to complete the same circuit a total of seven times. On the following two days, the pilgrims proceed to the city of Mina, where they perform a ritual in which the devil is symbolically stoned. Here the believers throw pebbles at three walls. Metaphorically, according to The Quran, this act refers to Ibrahim's action when he threw stones at the devil after he appeared to him on three occasions in that place.

After these ceremonies, the pilgrims return to their usual attire. The men shave off all their hair and the women cut a lock of it. Afterwards, the faithful are given the honorary title of 'Hajj', which certifies that the pilgrimage has been completed. 

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AFP/CHRISTINA ASSI - Peregrinos musulmanes circunvalan la Kaaba en la Gran Mezquita, en la ciudad sagrada de La Meca de Arabia Saudí, el 6 de julio de 2022

On the other hand, when entering Mecca, pilgrims must wear two white clothes without seams, sandals and, in the case of men, shave. In addition to this, the entire Meccan territory is considered holy and entry is forbidden to non-Muslims.