Coronavirus: Mecca’s holy sites to briefly close overnight to sanitize areas

Workers clean the Grand Mosque, during the minor pilgrimage, in Saudi Arabia, March 2, 2020. (AP)

The Grand Mosque in Mecca will briefly close overnight and reopen an hour before Friday morning prayers as Saudi Arabian authorities sanitize the holy site to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims amid growing concerns over the coronavirus, authorities confirm.

The temporary closure will begin an hour after the end of Thursday night prayers and will extend until an hour before morning prayers on Friday, according to a statement from the General Presidency for the affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque.

Specifically, the courtyard around the Kaaba, known as the mataf, and the pathway between al-Safa and al-Marwah will be closed for the duration the temporary closure. Authorities said prayer will only be permitted from inside the mosque.

Earlier in the day, the immediate area surrounding Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba, was emptied as health authorities sanitized the area amid coronavirus concerns, videos and photos posted on social media showed.

The location, called the “Mataf” in Arabic, refers to the open white area immediately around the Kaaba where Hajj and Umrah pilgrims perform the “tawaf” or circumambulation.

Part of any Hajj or Umrah pilgrim’s duties during their pilgrimage is to circle the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise direction seven times.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:05 - GMT 07:05
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