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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Over 1.5 million pilgrims converge for Hajj 2024 in Mecca

The influx of pilgrims significantly boosts Mecca's economy, particularly in the bustling markets around the Grand Mosque.

Saudi officials have reported that over 1.5 million foreign pilgrims have arrived in Mecca by June 11, with the vast majority traveling by air. The number of pilgrims is expected to surpass the 1.8 million mark from 2023, edging closer to the pre-pandemic figure of 2.4 million in 2019. This year’s pilgrimage is poised to witness a substantial increase, with hundreds of thousands of Saudis and residents joining the foreign pilgrims when Hajj officially begins on June 14.

Rituals and Devotions in the Grand Mosque

Pilgrims have been thronging the Grand Mosque in Mecca, engaging in the Tawaf, a ritual that involves walking seven times around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site. Dressed in ihrams, two unstitched sheets of white cloth symbolizing purity and equality, pilgrims braved scorching temperatures that soared to 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit). Many were seen carrying umbrellas to shield themselves from the intense sun.

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“I was relieved when I arrived at the Al-Masjid Al-Haram and saw the Kaaba,” shared Rabeia al-Raghi, a Moroccan pilgrim. Her sentiments were echoed by many others who expressed profound joy and gratitude for the opportunity to perform Hajj.

From Arafat to Mina: The Journey Continues

The pilgrimage progresses with a daylong vigil at the Mountain of Arafat on June 12, followed by a journey to Muzdalifah, a rocky plain nearby. Here, pilgrims collect pebbles for the symbolic stoning of pillars representing the devil in Mina. This ritual, along with others, underscores the spiritual and physical demands of Hajj, reflecting its significance as one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Global Representation and Challenges

The diversity of the pilgrims is notable, with participants from various countries, including 4,200 Palestinians from the West Bank. However, Palestinians from Gaza were unable to attend this year due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Ibrahim al-Hadhari, an Algerian pilgrim, voiced a common prayer among attendees: “We are praying for Palestine to be free and for Palestinians to liberate their land and live in peace.”

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The influx of pilgrims significantly boosts Mecca’s economy, particularly in the bustling markets around the Grand Mosque. “Trade movement is always excellent during Hajj,” noted Bander Mohammed al-Juwayri, a local shop owner. The Makkah Royal Clock Tower, a monumental structure near the mosque, becomes a focal point for commerce during this period.