PETALING JAYA: With Saudi Arabia’s cap of 10,000 pilgrims for haj this year, tenant affairs specialist Norani Nordin is one of the lucky eight Malaysians residing in Saudi Arabia who were accepted to perform their pilgrimage.
There is a stark difference now as Mecca, which was visited by 2.5 million pilgrims last year, is devoid of crowds with vast empty spaces and pilgrims maintaining social distancing while circling the Kaabah and performing other rituals.
Norani using a mask while performing rituals for her pilgrimage.
Norani, whose online registration was accepted, said she had mixed feelings about being there.
“I feel very honoured to be given the opportunity to perform the haj when billions couldn’t and for that, I am grateful to Allah.
“My group consists of 20 women from all over the world such as South Africa, Yemen, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan and I am the only one from Malaysia, ” she said.
Noraini, who is in her 40s, said it was heartbreaking to see the Kaabah “all alone”, with an empty Mataf – an open white area near the Kaabah where tawaf (the circling of the Kaabah seven times) takes place.
“If it wasn’t for the pandemic, millions of people would be circling the Kaabah, ” she said.
“Mina would have been buzzing with people but sadly it is like a ghost town now.”
Noraini, who has been working at the King Abdullah University Science and Technology since 2009, said she was not in the same group as the other Malaysians who were performing the haj but she saw them every day for haj classes and Quran reading sessions on Zoom.
Norani, who arrived in Mecca last Friday, explained that she had to do a four-day quarantine.
“We did two Covid-19 tests, one before we left for Mecca and another before we left our hotel in Mecca.
“We had to observe social distancing and each time we got on the bus, there were temperature checks. Masks and sanitiser were provided while food was served in packed boxes, ” she added.
Norani said the mosque and other locations were frequently sanitised by workers.
She was thankful the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had organised all this at no cost to the pilgrims.
By : DIYANA PFORDTEN – THE STAR