After waiting for many months, Saudi Arabia has finally released the first of several updates regarding Hajj 2021. So many of us have waited patiently to hear the news that our dreams of attending Hajj 2021 would be fulfilled. Unfortunately, the official word that was released is not the news that we have been waiting for.
While consideration of the current status of the coronavirus epidemic, locally and globally, including the new and increasing variants as well as the success of vaccination programs, the total number of pilgrims permitted to perform Hajj this year is 60,000 – a mere 2.5% of the usual worldwide quota. The Saudi Authorities have announced that Hajj 2021 will be open to foreign nationals, including the US, Canada and the UK.
What this means for US pilgrims is that there will only be a possible 500 total pilgrims allowed from the US from the usual quota of 20,000. That’s 500 from ALL USA based Hajj tour operators! In addition, this also depends on the ever-developing situation with the epidemic and can therefore be reduced further or increased somewhat and will only be confirmed at a later stage.
Current Rules and Regulations:
Even with only 500 pilgrims being permitted for the entire US there are several rules and regulations that need to be complied:
1. It is only open to adults between the ages of 18 to 60.
2. All applicants must be of sound health – free from any chronic illnesses or disease – anything that may require hospitalization, e.g. kidney dialysis
3. All applicants must have received the full dose of Covid-19 vaccine and present certificate from official health authority certifying so. The vaccine must be on the Saudi Ministry of Health approved list. Two dose vaccines must have been administered at least 14 days apart and single dose vaccines must have been administered at least 14 days before travel.
4. All applicants must have a negative PCR test result within 72 hours before departure from a reliable laboratory. Failure to provide this will result in not being able to board the aircraft.
5. A 3 day quarantine will be required upon arrival in your accommodation and another PCR test will be conducted during this period.
6. Additional PCR test in Saudi Arabia will be required within 40 hours before moving to the site of the Hajj rituals, testing particularly for any new variants.
7. Hotels in Makkah and Madinah will have to take measures to avoid overcrowding in rooms and gatherings. This means no room-sharing with non-family members and most likely double occupancy only, as they had in umrah. Restaurants will be closed and boxed meals will be provided and delivered by the hotels to the rooms.
8. Movements during the Hajj days, particularly in Mena will be strictly controlled. Leaving the Hajj sites to move onto the next part of the ritual can only be done during the allocated times for the group.
9. Every group will be assigned a bus and every pilgrim will have a specific seat number during the entire trip. Boarding and disembarking must be done according to safety measures set out by the Ministry of Health.
10. In Muzdalifa, pilgrims must remain in the designated location and leave when required without deviated from the schedule. This means that there won’t be a choice in whether we stay the
full night or part of the night.
11. Pilgrims will be provided sanitized stones in a sealed bag.
12. Only 50 pilgrims will be allowed on each floor of the Jamarat complex at a time to allow for social distancing of 1.5m between each pilgrim. This means going to the Jamarat for the stoning ritual can only be done during the designated time.
13. International pilgrims will not be permitted to leave Hajj sites and all movements will be controlled.
14. Prayer in courtyards of the two Holy Mosques will remain suspended due to the difficulty to control and apply screening.
We’re certainly pleased that Hajj is opening up, albeit with restrictions and limitations, however it is going to be quite different to what we or anyone had planned for or expected. Moreover, very few of us that have registered and planned for Hajj will be allowed to participate in Hajj 2021.
We expect to update you with more details and our revised plans soon after we receive further specifics from the Saudi Authorities.
May Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, protect us from this virus, send down His cure to all those who are afflicted with it and honor us to visit His Sacred House to perform Hajj.