Chosen hajj pilgrims in Saudi rejoice

Mecca (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – Chinese pilgrim Ni Haoyu welled up with tears of joy after being handpicked from among millions of Muslims vying for this year’s hajj pilgrimage, which has been drastically curtailed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Up to 10,000 people residing in Saudi Arabia are allowed to take part in this year’s hajj, evoking the envy and awe of millions of international would-be pilgrims who have been barred for the first time in modern history.

In a hugely sensitive decision, Saudi authorities decided to scale down the pilgrimage —- which last year packed 2.5 million pilgrims into the holy sites —- to prevent it from becoming a super spreader event for the deadly disease.

“I am overwhelmed with feelings of joy since I have been chosen to perform the ritual,” said 43-year-old Ni from China, who is pursuing a master’s degree at the Islamic university of Madinah.

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