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Religion

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Socially distanced haj pilgrimage begins
This year's haj will be a time of sadness for many Muslims around the world prevented from traveling to Saudi Arabia, but a decision to honor local health and security staff in the front line of the fight against the coronavirus has won praise.

For the first time in the modern era, amidst efforts to curb COVID-19, Muslims from abroad will be unable to attend the pilgrimage.

This year's event has been limited to about 1,000 pilgrims from within Saudi Arabia, 70% of whom will be foreign residents of the kingdom.

The remaining 30% will be drawn from Saudi healthcare workers and security personnel who have recovered from the coronavirus, as a gesture of thanks for their sacrifice.

Those chosen will receive supplies including special ihram garments, toiletries, and a prayer rug in a suitcase from the Saudi haj ministry, as well as pre-arranged meals. They will be required to maintain social distancing.
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