Just 60,000 people, all citizens or residents of Saudi Arabia, have been selected to take part in this year's Hajj, with foreign pilgrims again barred due to the restrictions over coronavirus pandemic.
Saudi Arabia's Hajj ministry says it is working on the "highest levels of health precautions" as pilgrims begin performing the "tawaf", the circumambulation of the Kaaba in Mecca's Grand Mosque.
Before Covid-19 pandemic, some 2.5 million pilgrims would visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long pilgrimage, which combined with the year-round Umrah pilgrimage, would earn the kingdom $12 billion a year.
The rejection from the global superstar is a public relations disaster for the Kingdom which is trying to find its feet as it diversifies its economy.
Hajj pilgrimage is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings but this year only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in the ritual as the Saudi hosts try to prevent the spread of virus pandemic.
Around a 1,000 people will perform the annual Islamic rite this year due to restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
Any loss of revenue from Hajj and Umrah, estimated at $12 billion annually, will put further strain on the Kingdom.
Spain’s former monarch, King Juan Carlos I, a transformative political figure, might have received illicit money from Saudi royals for a rail project.
The holiest month in Islam is also when traders make money. This year could be very difficult for them and Muslim countries.
As Hajj pilgrimage is under risk of cancellation for this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, people ask: is it the first lockdown in history?
As millions of Muslims start preparing for this year’s annual Hajj pilgrimage, Saudi authorities ask followers to delay bookings in light of the ongoing global pandemic.
The kingdom closed off the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to foreigners over the coronavirus fears, a step which wasn’t taken even during the 1918 flu epidemic that killed tens of millions worldwide.
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