On the 17th of October, restrictions controlling the number of worshipers at the Saudi Grand Mosque were lifted to the joy of practicing Muslims globally.
This decision came in line with the falling number of reported cases of COVID in the kingdom. In the same vain, restrictions were eased universally, as mask mandates were dropped and social distancing measures are no longer a requirement. Nevertheless, worshipers will still need to come with masks in hand, and book a place using an app to facilitate the process and prevent overcrowding.
The Importance of the Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque, or Al Masjid Al Haram, is the holiest site in Islam for worshipers. For millennia, and even before Islam became the prominent religion in the Arabian peninsula, pilgrims made their way to Makkah seeking a spiritual journey. The mosque that surrounds the Kaaba is the largest mosque and the eighth biggest building in the world. Every year, the area is flooded with pilgrims seeking to perform two of the holiest rituals in Islam: Hajj and Umrah. However, ever since COVID-19 hit, the site we were usually used to witnessing millions gathering in spiritual communion, vanished to the distress and heartbreak of many.
A Mosque With no Pilgrims
Desperate times call for desperate measures; during the lock-down, severe measures were taken at the Saudi Grand Mosque to limit the spread of the virus. For a while, all prayer for the public stopped, and only staff could pray on the holy grounds. Hajj and Umrah were also halted, especially to people from outside of Saudi Arabia, crushing the dreams of many devout believers. Little by little, vaccinated people were allowed entry, but still with reservations and caps on numbers.
A Return to Normality
In August, the Kingdom opened up to visitors and travelers. Little by little, as Saudi Arabia rolled a thorough vaccination campaign, the number of COVID-19 cases began to decrease and restrictions were lifted. Tourism began to reinvigorate the Kingdom, and now the Saudi Grand Mosque will finally harbor those seeking its blessings and wishing to witness its grandeur and history. With things going back to normal, it was a sight for sore eyes to see the stickers that mandated and reminded everyone to remain socially distant, to being removed from the corridors and halls of the Grand Mosque.
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, worshipers can finally be seen together side by side praying. We hope that spirituality and the return of the ability to practice your faith without bounds, across all religions, becomes the marker for a world healing from tragedy.