No fewer than 95,000 Nigerian Muslim pilgrims have joined their counterparts from all parts of the world in Mina, on the outskirts of Makkah, to begin a five-day Hajj ritual.
The Hajj rite which is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world has returned to full capacity this year for the first time after the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic three years ago.
The pilgrims commenced their rituals in an unrestricted spiritual ambiance after lifting of all the pandemic-related restrictions and preventive protocols.
Retracing the noble tradition of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the pilgrims will spend all day and night Monday, which is known as the Tarwiyah Day, in Mina.
On the first day of the Hajj rituals, they will engage in supplications and make final preparations for the Standing (wuqoof) at Arafat, the most central of Hajj rites, marking the climax of the annual pilgrimage, Tuesday tomorrow.
This year’s Hajj will be the biggest since 2019, when about 2.5 million pilgrims took part. Only 10,000 were allowed in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising to nearly 59,000 in 2021.
The Saudi authorities and Hajj missions of various countries have completed elaborate preparations and foolproof arrangements that enabled the pilgrims to complete their smooth movement to the tent city of Mina.
The Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Supreme Hajj Committee, Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif, inspected the readiness of the Hajj security forces.
Also, the Saudi Minister of the National Guard, Prince Abdullah bin Bandar, also witnessed the parade of the National Guard Forces during which he inspected the readiness of the forces participating in the Hajj security missions.
Earlier, the Chief Imam of the Abuja National Mosque, Prof. Mohammed Kabir, who enjoined Nigerian pilgrims to be good ambassadors of Nigeria, also emphasized the need for them to pray for sustainable peace and development in the country.
The cleric also encouraged pilgrims to rededicate themselves to worshiping Allah to maximize the benefits of hajj exercise.
Similarly, Dr Aliyu Tanko, Coordinator of Taraddudiyyah, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), appealed to all Nigerian pilgrims to conduct themselves as good ambassadors of the country.
“After so many years, this is the year that we have a complete allocation of our pilgrims that is 95,000.
“So this year, we have a very big crowd in the Hajj and definitely people will squeeze themselves because the same space we used in 2022 for 43,000 pilgrims is the same place we are going to use this year for 95,000 pilgrims.”
The Saudi ministry of Health has issued an alert to the pilgrims against heat exhaustion, as this year’s Hajj season is witnessing a rise in temperatures, which poses a threat to the health of pilgrims.
The Ministry’s health workers are on hand to help fend off heatstroke, dehydration and exhaustion in the heat of summer that recorded temperatures of more than 43 degree Celsius.