Muslim hajj crowds thinned by virus concerns


Muslim pilgrims pray at the door of the Kabaa, the cube-shaped structure in the city’s Grand Mosque that Muslims around the world face in prayer five times a day in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013. The hajj, a central pillar of Islam and one that able-bodied Muslims must make once in their lives, is a four-day spiritual cleansing based on centuries of interpretation of the traditions of Prophet Muhammad. Photo: Amr Nabil, AP

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Muslims from across the world poured Sunday into a sprawling tent city in the Saudi desert before the start of the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage, but the number of the pilgrims this year has been reduced in part by concerns over a respiratory virus centered in the Arabian peninsula.

More than 2 million pilgrims — about 1 million fewer than last year — streamed from the holy city of Mecca to a huge tent encampment in Mina about five kilometers (three miles) away to begin preparations for the hajj with a day of prayer and supplication.

Saudi authorities sharply cut back on visas for groups such as the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses as a precaution against a new respiratory virus related to SARS that has killed more than 50 people in the kingdom this past year. The Saudi health minister, Abdullah al-Rabiah, said late Saturday that no cases of the coronavirus infection have been detected among pilgrims.

Further visa restrictions were imposed because …continue reading at

1 reply

  1. I think this is not exactly correct. I do not think that the ‘virus’ ‘thinned the crowds’. The reason is simply that the Saudi Authorities did not issue as many visas as usual and the reason is the work in progress in expanding the Grand Mosque. Visas were not restricted for elderly. This was just an ‘advice’ that the frail and elderly may better not come this year, but it was not a ‘visa rule’. This (that the ‘virus’ was a reason for smaller crowds) was also denied by Authorities in Makkah. (Anyway, what is 50 death compared to three million hajis?) (and these 50 were locals and before the hajj season).

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