Vaccinated pilgrims gather for haj with limits

Clad in white and carrying umbrellas against the blistering summer sun, 60,000 Saudi citizens and residents are performing the rite, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, compared with some 2.5 million in 2019.

Saudi Arabia, which last year allowed a few thousand to perform the haj, is home to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, and the country strives to ensure a peaceful haj, which has been marred in the past by deadly stampedes, fires and riots.

With the coronavirus the main concern this year, authorities have restricted access to pilgrims aged 18 to 65 who have been fully vaccinated or immunized against the virus and do not suffer from chronic diseases.

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