Hajj is huge: Nearly 1.5 million pilgrims reach Mecca despite Saudi heat
The numbers are expected to be the highest since the Covid pandemic, with up to 2 million arrivals, including the largest number of Indian visitors ever
White robes and kufis, with black burkhas dotted amidst them, filled the arrival halls in Jeddah, as over a million worshippers reached Mecca — Islam's holiest city — for the biggest Hajj pilgrimage in years, despite the sweltering Saudi Arabian heat.
Saudi officials say nearly 1.5 million foreign pilgrims have arrived in the country so far.
Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, minister of Hajj and Umrah, said in a video posted by the ministry earlier this week, "As the Hajj draws near, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia prepares... for the largest Islamic gathering in history,"
The authorities added that they expect the number of pilgrims in 2023 to reach pre-pandemic levels, as this year's Hajj will be the first without the curbs imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2019, close to 2.5 million people took part in the pilgrimage. Covid-19 regulations brought that number down to only about 10,000 in 2020, which rose to 60,000 in 2021 and 926,000 in 2022.
The minister expects around 2 million people from over 160 countries to congregate at Mecca for the rituals this year.
Earlier this year, in January, the Hajj quota for Indian pilgrims — which is annually revised by the consulate in consultation with the Saudi Arabian government — was fixed at 175,025 for the year 2023, the highest in recorded history.
The Hajj officially begins on Monday, 26 June, and is one of the five pillars of Islamic adherence. All Muslims with the necessary resources are obligated to undertake it at least once in their lives.
With inputs from DW