Saudi Arabia is admitting one million vaccinated Muslims — from home and abroad — this summer for their Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. In the past two years, corona restrictions have only allowed tens of thousands of Saudis to visit the holiest site for Muslims. Pilgrims who want to be in Mecca next July must be fully vaccinated and under the age of 65. The Saudi news agency SPA announced this on Saturday, Reuters reported.
Before the corona pandemic, around 2.5 million Muslims made a pilgrimage to Mecca every year, most of them from abroad. Last year there were only 60,000 — all Saudis. They were the lucky ones who were drawn in by the government, out of hundreds of thousands of applications. People who had never or had not been on a pilgrimage for a long time were given priority.
Last month, the Saudi government, which is based on Sharia law, was already preparing to broaden the entry requirements for the Hajj. Most of the corona rules in the country have been scrapped, including distancing in mosques. Face masks are still mandatory in indoor areas. In addition to a vaccination certificate, foreign pilgrims must also submit a recent negative PCR test next summer.
The annual Hajj is important to the Saudi economy. Before the pandemic, the country earned about 11 billion euros annually, about 7 percent of the gross domestic product. The Hajj is one of the most important parts of the Islamic faith; compulsory for everyone who is able to do so. The word hajj means “going on a journey,” which refers to both the physical pilgrimage and the introspective nature of the journey.