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In photos: Largest Hajj pilgrimage since COVID-19 pandemic kicks off in Saudi Arabia

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The largest annual Hajj pilgrimage since the coronavirus pandemic kicked off in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, marking a significant step toward normalcy after COVID-19 restricted access to the ritual.

One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj must be undertaken by all Muslims at least once in their lives if they have the means.

Hajj is considered the world’s largest religious gathering, with about 2.5 million people performing the ritual in 2019.

Muslim pilgrims are pictured inside the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca, on July 6, 2022. (AFP)
Muslim pilgrims are pictured inside the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca, on July 6, 2022. (AFP)



Muslim pilgrims pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 6, 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)
Muslim pilgrims pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 6, 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)



However, due to COVID-19, the Kingdom had sharply decreased the number of pilgrims allowed to perform the ritual.

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This year, the Kingdom has allowed one million pilgrims from inside and outside the country to participate.

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 6, 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)
Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 6, 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)



Muslim pilgrims pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 6, 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)
Muslim pilgrims pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 6, 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)



Those performing the ritual this year must be under 65, vaccinated against the coronavirus and have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel.

The pilgrims have been chosen from millions of applicants through an online lottery system.

Muslim pilgrims pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 6, 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)
Muslim pilgrims pray around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 6, 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)



A Muslim pilgrim prays near the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 6, 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)
A Muslim pilgrim prays near the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque, in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on July 6, 2022, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (AFP)



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