In Saudi Arabia, last stage of the great pilgrimage on the first day of Eid

In Saudi Arabia, last stage of the great pilgrimage on the first day of Eid

Muslim worshipers on a pilgrimage to Mecca began the ritual of stoning Satan on Saturday, on the first day of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice marking the end of the hajj, this year the largest since the COVID-19 pandemic. 19.

From dawn, small groups of pilgrims arrived in the Mina Valley, near Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, in western Saudi Arabia. In accordance with the ritual, they began throwing stones at concrete stelae symbolizing Satan.

The pebbles were picked up Friday in the plain of Mouzdalifa, where the faithful spent the night under the stars, after a day of prayer and meditation on Mount Arafat.

The stoning of Satan is the last stage of the great pilgrimage which this year brought together nearly a million Muslims, including some 780,000 from abroad, after two years of drastic restrictions due to COVID-19.

This ritual turned tragic in 2015 with a gigantic stampede that killed some 2,300 people.

The hajj, which consists of a series of rites performed over five days in Mecca and its surroundings, is one of the five pillars of Islam to be undertaken by any able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.

In 2019, some 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world took part, but Saudi authorities only allowed a few thousand residents the following two years, at the height of the health crisis.

– Zero Covid cases –

Hosting the hajj is a matter of prestige for the rulers of the kingdom, for whom the conservation of Islam’s holiest sites is a source of political legitimacy and aura in the Muslim world.

The absence of foreign pilgrims in 2020 and 2021 had caused deep disappointment among the faithful, who sometimes save for years to be able to take part in the hajj.

This pilgrimage, usually one of the largest religious gatherings on the planet, took place this year against the backdrop of a further increase in cases of COVID-19 contamination around the world.

The mask, the mandatory wearing of which was canceled in June in most closed spaces in Saudi Arabia, is currently only imposed in the Grand Mosque of Mecca.

Therefore, a large number of pilgrims did not wear masks during rituals.

To access the holy city, however, participants had to present proof of vaccination and negative PCR tests taken 72 hours before the trip.

No case of coronavirus has yet been detected among the pilgrims, assured Thursday evening the Ministry of Health.

Since the start of the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 795,000 cases of coronavirus, of which more than 9,000 have been fatal. Some 67 million doses of vaccine have been administered in this country of more than 34 million inhabitants.

– Overwhelming heat –

Another challenge this year for the authorities: the oppressive heat with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius.

Hats being forbidden for men during the hajj, the pilgrims, lightly draped in white, try to protect themselves from the sun with umbrellas, prayer mats, even small buckets filled with water.

The women, in abaya, a loose black dress, are obliged to cover their heads with scarves.

“I feel like I’m going to pass out, hurry up!” a woman told a friend after asking her to pour water on her face.

In Mecca, other worshipers have already begun to perform the “farewell tawaf”, convolutions around the Kaaba, a cubic structure at the heart of the Grand Mosque to which Muslims around the world go for their daily prayers. .

On Twitter, King Salman of Saudi Arabia said he was happy to see so many worshipers in Mecca. “We are proud of the honor of serving pilgrims and we wish all Muslims a happy Eid al-Adha holiday,” he said.

Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha on Saturday, a festival that consists of sacrificing an animal in memory of Abraham. The latter had almost sacrificed his son Ismaïl before the angel Gabriel offered him in extremis to kill a sheep in his place, according to tradition.

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