DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The vast, white-marble floors surrounding Islam’s holiest site, the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca, would normally be packed with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world the day before the hajj.
On Tuesday, however, only a few officials and workers putting last-minute preparations in place were seen at the Grand Mosque housing the Kaaba.
In place of the 2.5 million pilgrims who performed the hajj last year, only a very limited number of faithful — anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 — are being allowed to take part in what is largely a symbolic pilgrimage amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The select few approved for this year’s hajj have been tested for the virus and are self-isolating in hotel rooms in Mecca, where they will experience an ancient pilgrimage — albeit tailored this year for a modern-day pandemic.
Amr Al-Maddah, the chief planning officer at