The South African facilities at Mina ahead of the Hajj pilgrimage. [Picture: @sahuchajj/Twitter]
The annual Hajj pilgrimage began early on Monday morning as millions of Muslims flocked to the tent city of Mina. It is the largest since the Covid-19 pandemic, with restrictions removed, and possibly a record-breaking Hajj.
“Everyone is excited about the opportunity to perform Hajj and to benefit from the opportunity of observing the Hajj and participating in the spiritual activities associated with Hajj,” said Nigerian pilgrim, Dr Ibraheem Abioye, in an interview live from Mina.
Moments before sunrise on Monday, the pilgrims gathered in the Grand Mosque, Mecca, to pray before setting off to Mina. There, they will spend an entire day and night in devotion and prepare for departure to Mount Arafat.
Hardly able to contain her excitement on the eve of the pilgrimage, South African pilgrim Akifa Mia said this moment was the culmination of a long wait. She and her husband, Muhammed Mia, had applied nearly a decade ago.
“We applied almost nine years ago, the year after we got married, and we got accredited the year that Covid hit. We were on the bottom half of the list so we didn’t make it in last year’s accreditation.”
Several setbacks out of the way, the couple is now eager to embark on a walking Hajj.
“It’s a bit daunting, because a lot of the people are saying that the heat is crazy and the numbers of workers are a lot less than they usually are, but we’re going to try. It’s just a lot of excitement. Our group has been amazing.”
There are more than 2.5 million Muslims in attendance from around the globe. This is exponentially higher than the meagre 10 000 in 2020 and 59 000 in 2021. It is more than double the one million pilgrims last year. A total of 1,655,188 pilgrims will perform Hajj from outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.