Pilgrims can once again touch and kiss the Black Stone in the sacred Kaaba building at the Great Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The Black Stone is one of Islam’s most sacred relics. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a wall was put up around the Kaaba. This wall has now been taken down.
Pictures show people rushing to get close to the Black Stone because they are so excited. The barrier, which was put up to keep people apart, has been taken down just in time for the Umrah season.
The Hajj is a religious journey to Mecca that all Muslims who are able to do so must make at least once in their lives. It happens at a set time each year: from July 7 to July 12 in 2022.
Anyone from anywhere in the world can go on the Umrah pilgrimage at any time of the year. Pilgrims can also go to Medina, which is also a holy city.
Saudi Arabia dropped most of its strict Covid-19 restrictions earlier this year. This meant that the Hajj pilgrimage was almost back to normal last month for the first time since the pandemic began.
Hajj is the most important pilgrimage for Muslims, but only 1,000 people were allowed to go in 2020. Pilgrims from other countries were not allowed to take part. Only people from Saudi Arabia were allowed to attend.
In 2021, 60,000 people went, and in July of this year, more than a million people went to Mecca to worship.
But that is still low compared to the numbers before Covid. According to Statistica, in 2019 about 2.5 million people went to Mecca for Hajj, making it the largest gathering of people in the world.
In Islamic tradition, the Black Stone in the eastern corner of the famous square Kaaba is thought to have been there when Adam and Eve were alive. Before Islam came along, it was already seen as holy. It is said to have been white at first, but turned black from the sins of those who touched it.