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Mecca Cleared of Unauthorized Pilgrims as Hajj Begins

Monday 10 June 2024 - 13:50
Mecca Cleared of Unauthorized Pilgrims as Hajj Begins

Amid preparations for the annual pilgrimage of Hajj, Saudi Arabian authorities have launched a sweeping operation to clear Mecca of hundreds of thousands of unregistered pilgrims. The move, aimed at ensuring a smooth and secure Hajj experience, has seen security forces turning away over 150,000 foreigners who arrived in Mecca on tourist visas instead of the required Hajj permits.

But the enforcement didn't stop there. An additional 171,587 individuals residing in Saudi Arabia, but not in Mecca itself, were also expelled from the holy city due to lacking proper Hajj documentation. The kingdom, custodian of Islam's holiest sites, is resolute in maintaining order and safety during this monumental religious gathering.

Hajj, a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for every able-bodied Muslim, drew a staggering 1.8 million participants last year. The intricate rituals, spanning at least four days, unfold in Mecca and its surrounding areas in western Saudi Arabia. However, the high costs and limited quotas associated with obtaining formal Hajj permits and travel packages have led many pilgrims to seek unofficial channels, posing potential risks and challenges for Saudi authorities.

As of Saturday, over 1.3 million registered pilgrims had already arrived in Saudi Arabia for Hajj, according to local authorities in Mecca. The kingdom, home to Islam's most sacred shrines, leaves no stone unturned in its efforts to ensure the safety and security of the pilgrims during this holy event.

In a letter addressed to Moroccan pilgrims embarking on Hajj this year, King Mohammed VI urged them to be "worthy ambassadors" of their nation. The monarch called upon the pilgrims to uphold Morocco's radiant image and values, emphasizing the importance of tolerance, active solidarity, and adherence to the measures implemented by Saudi authorities.

The first contingent of Moroccan pilgrims, comprising 1,380 individuals, arrived in Medina on the morning of May 24. This year, a total of 34,000 Moroccan pilgrims are expected to participate in Hajj, with 22,500 under the supervision of the Ministry of Habous and Islamic Affairs and 11,500 supervised by independent travel agencies.

As Hajj commences, the world watches with bated breath as Saudi Arabia navigates the immense logistical and security challenges of hosting one of the largest religious gatherings on the planet, all while upholding the sanctity and reverence of this sacred Islamic pilgrimage.

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