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MAKKAH: This year’s annual Hajj pilgrimage has drawn more than 1.8 million worshippers, Saudi Arabia’s statistics authority said Tuesday, a long way short of a record despite predictions of peak attendance.

The data showed most of the faithful came from abroad.

The kingdom’s officials had predicted this year’s rituals, one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, would draw more than 2.5 million pilgrims, making it the largest to date.

Hajj today

But official figures carried by the state-run Al Ekhbariya TV showed they were still short of the 2.5 million worshippers who took part in 2019.

“The total number of pilgrims for this Hajj season… is 1,845,045 male and female pilgrims,” the Saudi statistics authority said, according to Al Ekhbariya.

They include more than 184,000 from within the kingdom, according to the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

More than 875,000 women took part, compared to almost 970,000 men, the ministry said.

This year’s figures still mark a dramatic increase on the 926,000 from last year, when numbers were capped at one million following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Only 10,000 were allowed in 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, rising to nearly 59,000 a year later.

The Hajj is among the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.

This year’s Hajj is the largest since Saudi authorities scrapped a requirement for women to be accompanied by a male guardian in 2021.

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Azeem Hakro Jun 28, 2023 06:14am
The high inflation rate in Pakistan has made it difficult for many people to afford the cost of Hajj. The government-run Hajj scheme has seen a significant drop in applications this year, with many people unable to afford the increased costs. The cost of Hajj has increased by around 50% in Pakistan this year, due to a number of factors, including the rising cost of airfare, accommodation, and food. The Pakistani rupee has also lost a significant amount of its value against the US dollar, making it even more expensive for Pakistanis to travel to Saudi Arabia.
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