Pilgrims on Thursday have gathered on the plains of Mount Arafat for the pinnacle of the Hajj pilgrimage. Arab News reports that with the Saudi authorities having capped the number of Hajj pilgrims to just a thousand this year to contain the spread of the coronavirus, a Macedonian woman residing in Riyadh for the past six years, was one of those privileged to be able to perform Hajj.
Hamide Halimi told Arab News, “I’ve been dreaming of Hajj ever since I came here and it’s finally happening.” She said, “In my group, we’re more than twenty women and throughout this experience, I’ve been with women only. From the hotel to Miqat and to the Haram, we’re all women. Even the women that came with their husbands, they had to keep with the women. So, it’s an amazing sisterhood experience.”
Halimi was on Wednesday pleased to see that the authorities had organized to keep the women closest to the Kaaba for Tawaf (circumambulation) and that it was made easy for them all day.
She said that during her previous visits to Makkah to perform Umrah, or the lesser pilgrimage, she had circumambulated the Kaaba from a distance. Once, due to the size of the crowd, she had to perform the ritual from the roof of the Grand Mosque.
Halimi expressed exuberance at how close she was in proximity to the Kaaba on Wednesday. She said, “It was a surreal moment that I could never have imagined happening.” She added, “Everyone who performs Hajj has to make some arrangements, but it’s just been such smooth sailing, I’m lost for words.”
About the tracking bracelets the Hajj pilgrims were given to wear, Halimi explained that the pilgrims were given the bracelets at the medical centres where they had been given a routine check-up, as well as tested for the coronavirus. She said, “We were given a bracelet which works with an app that you install on your phone and it tracks each day your isolation.”
She said that all pilgrims were adhering to social distancing rules and guidelines.
Arab News reports that health facilities in Arafat have been equipped with general clinics staffed by a range of medics who are specialists in intensive care. There are also facilities equipped to deal with sunstroke and heat stress, as well as a mobile hospital. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the ministry has also prepared a camp in the Arafat area to isolate potential suspected coronavirus cases amongst the Hajjis.
Umm Muhammed Umar