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Coronavirus

COVID-19 empties Saudi holy city of Muslim pilgrims

Health Ministry says no cases confirmed during drastically scaled down Hajj

At left, pilgrims walk around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on July 31. At right, pilgrims circle the Kaaba in 2019. (Source photos by Saudi Ministry of Media/AP and AP)

DUBAI/CAIRO -- As the Hajj pilgrimage ended this year on Sunday, the Saudi holy city of Mecca hosted only 1,000 visitors, according to the government. Normally the annual Islamic pilgrimage attracts around 2.5 million worshippers from around the world.

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. All Muslims are required to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetimes. To accommodate the world's roughly 2 billion Muslims, the Saudi government typically issues Hajj visas according to national quotas. A lottery is used to select who makes the pilgrimage.

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