As the annual Hajj reached its peak, some 60,000 masked and socially distant Muslims gathered Monday at Saudi Arabia’s Mount Arafat to pray and call for a quick end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the second year, the pilgrimage was limited to Saudi citizens and residents age 18-65 who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. Normally, the Hajj draws more than 2 million people.
Mount Arafat is believed to be where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his last sermon.
"It is an indescribable feeling that I got selected among millions of people to attend the Hajj,” Um Ahmed, a Palestinian pilgrim who lives in Riyadh, said in an interview with Reuters. “I pray for God to put an end to these hard times the whole world has gone through under the coronavirus."
Pilgrims typically climb the 70-meter hill after noon prayers. There, they seek to atone for their sins and recite from the Koran.
After sunset, they move on to Muzdalifah to spend the night under the stars. The next day, they gather stones to throw at columns symbolizing the devil.
Arafat and Muzdalifah are a few kilometers east of Mecca.
"The first prayer is to ask God to lift this pandemic, this curse and this grief for all humanity and for Muslims so in the next years, they are able to attend Hajj and for millions to refill these holy sites," Maher Baroody, a Syrian pilgrim, told Reuters.
Some information in this report comes from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.