TEMPO.CO, Riyadh - Muslim pilgrims on Wednesday, July 29, embarked on the first day of their Hajj rituals in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, according to a statement by the Saudi ministry of media.
The pilgrims started the major Islamic pilgrimage after finishing four days of hotel isolation in Mecca and prior to that a week-long quarantine at home, as part of the preventative measures to guard against COVID-19.
The pilgrims, some of them carrying umbrellas to protect themselves from the fierce sun, observed social distancing as they circumambulated the sacred site Kaaba, the building at the center of Mecca's Grand Mosque draped in gold-embroidered cloth toward which Muslims around the world pray.
Hajj authorities have cordoned the Kaaba this year, while pilgrims are not allowed to touch it, so as to limit the chances of COVID-19 infection.
The pilgrimage this year is limited to citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia, who meet preset conditions and have been subjected to quarantine procedures. Individuals from 160 nationalities residing in the Kingdom have been selected to perform the Hajj.
The number of pilgrims for this year's Hajj has been dramatically reduced to ensure that the social distancing measures are adhered to. Foreigners residing in Saudi Arabia make up to 70 percent of the total number of pilgrims while Saudi citizens account for the remaining 30 percent.