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Nearly 1.5 million foreign pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia so far for annual Hajj pilgrimage

Pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaabah, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, PHOTO: AP

MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA (AP) – Saudi officials said close to 1.5 million foreign pilgrims have arrived in the country so far for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, the vast majority by air.

This year’s pilgrimage will be the first without the restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, starting in 2020. More pilgrims are expected to arrive before the start of the Hajj on Monday.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, and all Muslims are required to undertake it at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able. It is one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.

The Saudi media ministry on Thursday said that more than 1.49 million foreign pilgrims had arrived through its international ports up to Wednesday, with 1.43 million travelling by air.

Saudi officials have said they expect the number of pilgrims in 2023 to reach pre-pandemic levels. In 2019, more than 2.4 million Muslims made the pilgrimage.