Hajj in 2018
Saudi Arabia has announced that it will drastically limit those allowed to perform annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca to help the fight against coronavirus.
Hajj is an integral part of the nation’s self-proclaimed identity as the leading Muslim country in the world, with Hajj being a once-in-a-lifetime duty for able-bodied Muslims.
In the past decade, Saudi Arabia has seen between 1.9 to 2.3 million pilgrims per year internationally, however, this year’s event will be limited to about 1,000 pilgrims from within Saudi Arabia.
Of the 1,000 pilgrims permitted, 70% will be foreign residents of the kingdom and 30% will be drawn from Saudi health care workers and personnel who have recovered from the virus.
One Saudi citizen, Nour al Ghamdi, stated;
“hajj this year is for the heroes who saved the country and saved our people, they deserve it ... I personally would have loved to go but there are priorities.”
In the past, the hajj has been restricted and suspended due to conflict or disease, but 2020 is the first year to see such significant limits to the number of pilgrims.
Hit to the Saudi Tourism Industry
Official figures also show the haj pilgrimage generates about 12 billion a year, with the new limit imposed on the number of pilgrims, this revenue will be lost.
Due to the recent pandemic, Saudi Arabia has seen huge drops in the current demand for oil, which when paired with the hit to the tourism industry, will hurt government finances.