Written by Mai Hegazy, CAI’s Manager of Global Destination Services
Each year on the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar, millions of Muslims flock from all over the globe to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage), one of the largest religious gatherings around the world. Hajj is one of the five main pillars of Islam. All adult Muslims physically and financially able, must perform Hajj at least once in their lifetime.
This year Hajj started on Tuesday July 28th, the holy cities of Mecca and Madinah are hosting 1000 pilgrims as opposed to almost 2.5 million last year. In response to the pandemic, announcements about canceling Hajj for the year 2020 spread causing grief among Muslims across the globe.
The significance of canceling Hajj goes beyond the religious rituals. For the first time in decades, in their efforts to balance crowd control and holding Hajj during the pandemic, the Ministry of Hajj in Saudi Arabia has decided to limit pilgrims to residents to of Saudi Arabia. Among the 1000 pilgrims this year, 70% are foreign nationals residing in Saudi Arabia and 30% are Saudi Nationals (Medical professionals and security officers). A very rigorous selection process was put in place. Applications were open for healthy individuals between the ages of 20 and 50. All those selected had to undergo strict medical tests, they were required to quarantine prior to Hajj and will self-isolate after completion of the religious rituals. This is a huge blessing to the few who were selected, they get to enjoy performing Hajj without crowds, impeccable organization, and more space to experience the spiritualities of Hajj. It was a blessing for all of us, those who were able to attend and those who were not, to know that Hajj is still being held. It gave us hope and sense of joy.
An image of Hajj 2020
I personally feel truly blessed and grateful to have immediate family members around me to celebrate and enjoy this special holiday. Holding Hajj during these challenging times is a true blessing that brings hope and joy to our new normalcy.