An unprecedented challenge .. Will Saudi Arabia succeed in organizing the Hajj season with “zero injuries”?

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As Saudi Arabia prepares to host the Hajj pilgrimage, which begins this weekend, it faces an unprecedented challenge in balancing its responsibilities to organize the most important religious event in the Islamic world with the necessity of curbing the pandemic of the Corona virus.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the pilgrimage is a source of great political and religious prestige for Riyadh, and a source of income for billions of dollars for the country, and the kingdom reduced the number of pilgrims from 2.5 million last year to 10 thousand from 160 countries according to Saudi officials, although the authorities initially announced that the pilgrimage would be limited This year only a thousand pilgrims.

To restrict the numbers, the leader of the Hajj Security Forces, Zayed bin Abdul Rahman Al-Tawaian, announced measures taken to preserve the safety of the pilgrims, including determining their movements, revealing a fine of 10 thousand Saudi riyals for the violators, and Saudi Arabia recorded more than 260 thousand cases of the virus and 2672 died.

A blow to the economy

The restrictions imposed on the pilgrimage represent another blow to the economy of Saudi Arabia, which was already affected by the drop in oil prices and the closure measures imposed by the virus, including the international travel ban, which affected the emerging tourism and entertainment sectors in the Kingdom, and the International Monetary Fund expects that the Riyadh economy will shrink by 6.8 % This year.

Maher Jamal, the former president of the Chamber of Commerce in Mecca, said that the hospitality and housing sectors are completely dependent on the revenues of the Hajj, adding: “These sectors will now face significant income losses and this will affect everyone from the large hotel investor to the hotel store.”

In addition, the government runs the pilgrimage internally this year, bypassing most private tour operators, and a member of the board of directors of a company hosting pilgrims from Arab countries said: “We will achieve zero profits this year.”

Hajj conditions

In addition to reducing the number of pilgrims, the authorities imposed additional measures such as preventing pilgrims from touching the Kaaba, as well as asking them to bring a personal prayer rug to avoid infection, in addition to applying a policy of social spacing, wearing face masks constantly and checking temperatures regularly, and the stones will be sterilized when throwing stones. .

“We are saddened by the limited number this year for the exceptional pilgrimage,” said Amr al-Maddah, the chief planning and strategic officer for the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, noting that “despite the limited number, the challenges and efforts we face are no less than any other year.”

Because of the Corona virus, this year’s Hajj will be for people between the ages of 20 and 50 who are in good health, most of them residing in Saudi Arabia, with priority given to those who have never performed the Hajj, and the rest are Saudi health workers and security personnel who have recovered Corona.

“We aim to end this pilgrimage without any injury,” said Mr. Maddah.





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