Beginning from this Sunday, an unprecedented number of more than 2.5 million pilgrims from across the world are now in Saudi Arabia to perform the holy ceremony of Hajj.
This year’s Hajj pilgrimage, which started from this Sunday in Mecca, is like never before. In other words, never has the holy ceremony been attended by so many pilgrims from all corners of the world.
According to estimates from Saudi Arabia, this year’s Hajj pilgrimage is expected to break attendance records and be attended by more than 2.5 million people from across the world, more than any year before since the in 632 A.D. when the ritual was actually born. “This year, we will witness the largest Hajj pilgrimage in history,” said an official at the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
Hajj is one of the “five pillars” of Islam, and performing Hajj ceremony is obligatory for every able-bodied Muslim adult who has the financial means to take part at least once in their lifetime. It is meant to wipe away sins and bring pilgrims closer to God.
The Hajj is performed every year between the 8th and 13th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Muslim calendar. Since this is a lunar calendar with the year being about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian year, the Gregorian date for Hajj changes from year to year.
On Sunday evening, the pilgrims made their way to Mina, about 8km (5 miles) from Mecca’s al-Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque. They later gathered at Mount Arafat, where Prophet Muhammad is believed to have delivered his final sermon.
Difficulties of a beautiful holy ceremony
But alongside the beauties of the holy pilgrimage that bless Saudi Arabia for days, this year’s Hajj is a challenge, mostly because it is taking place in the nearly 45-degree-Celsius heat. To prepare for emergencies in case they happen during the Hajj ceremony, Saudi authorities said more than 32,000 health workers and thousands of ambulances are on standby to treat cases of heatstroke, dehydration and exhaustion.
This Friday, the Saudi Ministry of Interior and leaders of the Hajj security forces noted in a statement that preparations for security, traffic and organizational plans for this year’s Hajj season have all been completed.
“The general plan for the tasks and responsibilities of the Hajj security forces for this year, approved by the minister of interior and chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif, has focused on intensifying the field security presence in a way that ensures the speedy monitoring of all types of security cases and remarks, and rapid response with appropriate measures,” said Gen. Mohammed Al-Bassami, director of public security and chair of the Hajj Security Committee, adding also that the plans also includes “taking preventive measures to counter crime, combat pickpocketing, and any negative phenomena that affects the security and safety of pilgrims.”
No flight from Israel to Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj
Despite Israeli officials have said it several times that they have high hopes for direct flights to Saudi Arabia for the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage this year, it just didn’t happen. The idea of a direct flight between Israel and Saudi Arabia was first proposed by the Biden administration during Biden’s visit to the region last July.
However, the US National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi said this Monday that there would be no Israeli plane landing in Saudi Arabia this year.
“The US welcomed related steps under discussion to include direct flights from Israel to Jeddah for this year’s Hajj on approved carriers. But perhaps for the next Hajj we will be in a position to help in this matter, and [direct] flights will depart from here… but it’s too early to say,” Hanegbi said.