MINA (Saudi Arabia) (hooly News) – Muslim worshipers on Friday began the ritual of stoning Satan, one of the last of the great pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, which has been drastically reduced this year to prevent any spread of the new coronavirus.

The stelae representing Satan erected in the valley of Mina, near Mecca, in the west of the kingdom, have seen deadly crushes in recent years, but the risk seems very minimal this year.

Only tens of thousands of faithful, residing in Saudi Arabia, make the pilgrimage, inaccessible this year to millions of candidates around the world due to the pandemic.

Under scorching heat, the pilgrims arrived in Mina, closely supervised by guides and police officers who ensured compliance with the rules of physical distancing. They performed the symbolic gesture of throwing seven pebbles in the direction of one of the stelae representing Satan.

The exercise was very controlled as it usually took place in the hustle and bustle with many injured by poorly adjusted rock throws.

This year, the authorities provided sterilized pebbles to the pilgrims. In the past, they were picked up from the ground.

Friday marks the start of Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice. Pilgrims and Muslims around the world occasionally slaughter a beast in homage to the sacrifice that the prophet Abraham almost made, according to tradition, after God asked him to sacrifice Ishmael, his son. At the last minute, the angel Gabriel replaced Ishmael with a sheep.

– A dream come true –

King Salman on the occasion of Eid sent his best wishes to Muslims, stressing that the Saudi authorities had “redoubled their efforts” to protect the faithful, while the kingdom has officially registered more than 274.00 cases of infections, including more than 2,800 deaths, one of the highest rates in the Arab world.

Last year, the ruler was shown observing from an elevated window the ritual of stoning Satan, which lasts for three days.

But it is not clear if he will make the trip this year. The 84-year-old ruler left the hospital late Thursday after having his gallbladder removed.

The pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam, brought together 2.5 million worshipers from all over the world last year.

The highlight of the hajj took place on Thursday with the ascent of Mount Arafat, 20 km east of Mecca. This ritual, during which the faithful ask for God’s mercy, has been cut short due to the pandemic.

“I am very happy to have been chosen among millions of people for this year’s hajj,” said Saudi pilgrim Wedyan Alwah before embarking on the climb. “The dream of my life has come true.”

The pilgrims spent the night in Mouzdalifah, another holy place, before beginning the ritual of stoning.

The movement of crowds between these holy places had caused in 2015 the worst stampede in the modern history of the pilgrimage, with 2,300 dead.

– Test and quarantine –

After the stoning, pilgrims return to the Great Mosque of Mecca to perform a final “tawaf”, or convolution around the Kaaba, a cubic structure that Muslims around the world turn to for prayer.

Everything has been done to avoid contamination. Each pilgrim was tested and quarantined before the ritual. He must observe another quarantine after the hajj.

“The precautions were carefully applied at all stages,” said Hussein al-Sharif, an official in the organization of the pilgrimage.

Six hospitals, one of which is mobile, have been installed in healthy places, in addition to 51 clinics and 63 groups of caregivers, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Mohammed al-Abdel Ali told hooly News. .

According to him, no less than 8,000 members of different health personnel have been mobilized.

Normally, the hajj costs thousands of dollars to each pilgrim but this year the Saudi government covered the expenses of all the pilgrims, providing them with meals, hotel accommodation and health care, according to worshipers. .