Muslim pilgrims in Saudi Arabia took part in the final tawaf of haj on Sunday (August 2), walking seven laps around the Kaaba, a stone structure that is the most sacred in Islam and the direction which Muslims face to pray.
Earlier in the day pilgrims took part in the third and final day of the symbolic “stoning of the devil,” but maintained social distancing during the annual ritual that usually brings millions of worshippers from all over the world shoulder to shoulder.
Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina and its peaceful organisation of haj, which has been marred in the past by deadly stampedes, fires and riots.
This year it faces the challenge of keeping haj, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it and a major source of income for the government, safe from COVID-19.
(Production: Polly Rider, Natasa Bansagi)