• By The Financial District


In any other year, Muslims undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca would drink from a holy well and kiss the Kaaba’s Black Stone as they thronged the Grand Mosque. Before they left Mecca, they would collect pebbles to ritually stone the devil.

During the coronavirus edition of the hajj, which begins today, the Black Stone is off limits. The authorities in Saudi Arabia are issuing bottled water instead of letting pilgrims drink from the source. A special package for hajjis includes sterilized pebbles to hurl at the devil and personal prayer rugs.

It’s another example of a major gathering that has been drastically scaled back to ensure safety and prevent contagion during the pandemic. Across the Middle East, celebrations for Eid al-Adha, the festival that marks the end of the hajj this weekend, will likewise be toned down, according to the New York Times.

Last year, 2.5 million Muslims went on the hajj. This year, Saudi Arabia said it would allow only 1,000 pilgrims from within the kingdom.