Saudi Arabia to host pre-Covid numbers for 2023 Hajj pilgrimage season

Saudi Arabia to host pre-Covid numbers for 2023 Hajj pilgrimage season
2 min read
Saudi Arabia's Hajj ministry said in a tweet that the kingdom, home to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, will impose no restrictions, including age limits, for this season.
In 2019, the last year before the pandemic struck, some 2.6 million people performed the Hajj [ABDEL GHANI BASHIR/AFP/Getty-archive]

Saudi Arabia will remove Covid-19 restrictions for the 2023 Hajj season and host pre-pandemic numbers of pilgrims, the kingdom's Hajj and Umrah ministry said on Monday.

In 2019, the last year before the pandemic struck, some 2.6 million people performed the Hajj.

The kingdom allowed only limited numbers from its residents in 2020 and 2021 before it welcomed back one million foreign pilgrims in 2022.

The Hajj ministry said in a tweet that the kingdom, home to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, will impose no restrictions, including age limits, for this season.

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Access was restricted in 2022 to pilgrims aged 18 to 65 who have been fully vaccinated or immunised against the coronavirus and did not suffer from chronic diseases.

Hajj season is expected to begin on 26 June in 2023.

Over the years, the kingdom has spent billions of dollars on making one of the world's biggest religious gatherings more secure.

Hajj, a duty every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must carry out at least once in their lifetime, is a major source of income for the government from worshippers' lodging, transport, fees and gifts.

An economic reform plan of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aims to increase Umrah and Hajj capacity to 30 million pilgrims annually and to generate 50 billion riyals ($13.32 billion) of revenues by 2030.

About 19 million also took part annually in the Umrah, another form of pilgrimage to Mecca which – unlike the Hajj – can be carried out at any time of the year, before the pandemic.

(Reuters)