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Coronavirus: Riyadh closes Hajj door to Muslims not residing in Saudi Arabia

It’s now official, the coronavirus got the better of the Muslim pilgrimage this year. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia announced on Monday June 22 that “a very limited number of resident Muslims” in the Wahhabi Kingdom will be allowed to perform the 5th pillar of Islam. The authorities explain that this decision is taken to “ensure the health safety of pilgrims as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread””.

The cancellation of the Hajj 2020 thus deprives the government of Riyadh of a significant inflow of foreign currency. Religious tourism has already suffered significant financial losses because of the Covid-19. The Ramadan Umrah, a crucial sequence for the local economy, has been abolished. On June 6, the British publication Financial Times estimated Riyadh’s revenues for the Hajj and Umrah at $12 billion.

In Morocco, this decision puts an end to weeks of waiting for candidates for the 2020 pilgrimage. On Thursday 28 May, at the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, the Minister of Islamic Affairs indicated that his services “have no official notification or communication from the Saudi Ministry of the Hajj concerning what is going to happen in the coming days”.

He said that “so far, we have not signed any contract related to accommodation, transport and subsistence services (…) The pilgrimage requires special organization, measures and time”. A message that he reiterated on Tuesday 16 June during the oral question session in the House of Councillors.

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