Saudi Arabia: Hajj draws 1.8 million pilgrims, falls short of pre-pandemic record

Saudi Arabia: Hajj draws 1.8 million pilgrims, falls short of pre-pandemic record
Officials said that 1.8 million pilgrims arrived in the Saudi kingdom for Hajj, falling short of the 2019 record and despite predictions of a peak attendance this year.
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This year's Hajj pilgrimage was expected to break the attendance record previously set in 2019 [Getty]

This year's annual hajj pilgrimage has drawn more than 1.8 million worshippers, Saudi Arabia's statistics authority said on Tuesday, a long way short of a record despite predictions of peak attendance.

The data showed most of the faithful came from abroad.

The kingdom's officials had predicted this year's rituals, one of the world's largest religious gatherings, would draw more than 2.5 million pilgrims, making it the largest to date.

But official figures carried by the state-run Al Ekhbariya TV showed they were still short of the 2.5 million worshippers who took part in 2019.

"The total number of pilgrims for this hajj season is 1,845,045 male and female pilgrims," the Saudi statistics authority said, according to Al Ekhbariya.

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They include more than 184,000 from within the kingdom, according to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

More than 875,000 women took part, compared to almost 970,000 men, the ministry said.

This year's figures still mark a dramatic increase on the 926,000 from last year, when numbers were capped at one million following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Only 10,000 were allowed in 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, rising to nearly 59,000 a year later.

The hajj is among the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.

This year's hajj is the largest since Saudi authorities scrapped a requirement for women to be accompanied by a male guardian in 2021.