New binding rules regarding the pilgrimage to Mecca: "totally unexpected"

From July 7-12, Muslims from all over the world will head to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. They will perform the ‘Hajj’ there, a pilgrimage blocked for two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But for many Muslims, travel will not be possible this year. The Saudi authorities have indeed decided to limit the number of pilgrims this summer. A registration and lottery system was put in place, leaving thousands of Muslims in doubt.

“It’s completely unexpected. I quickly registered on the platform, even if the prices are higher than if you went through a travel agency. Moreover, the flights are not even included. With these prices, my son can’t come already”, explains Ali to our colleagues from Morgan.

He who was looking forward to this trip after years of saving, nothing is now certain about the feasibility of his pilgrimage. Last week, the Saudi government announced that pilgrims from Europe, America and Australia could only book their trip on a platform managed by the Saudi authorities.

They were no less than 2.5 million in 2019, they will not be more than a million this summer. In addition to this, the Saudi government has imposed other conditions. Travelers must also be under 65 and fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

As for Belgium, there are about 1,400 places for Belgian Muslims, about half the normal number. A draw will have to determine who is one of the lucky ones. “I am constantly refreshing my mailbox and calling my friends and family. We were supposed to go with a whole group, but it is far from certain that we will all be able to go and that we will be in the same group there. We have so many questions”Ali tells the Morgen.

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