Meet one of the few Hajj pilgrims of 2020

Applications for pilgrimage were limited this year because of coronavirus pandemic

Each year, about 2.5 million pilgrims descend on Makkah for the annual Hajj, but the coronavirus pandemic this year has meant that only about 1,000 will be able to perform it.

Saudi Arabia has announced that this year’s Hajj is limited to residents of the kingdom.

Seventy per cent of those will be foreign residents, while the other 30 per cent of places will be allocated to Saudis.

Priority will be given to those who served in the front line against Covid-19.

Indonesian mother Faridah Binti Bakti Yahra, 39, was among the lucky few whose applications for Hajj were accepted this year.

"I couldn't believe it when they called me to tell me I was chosen to go to Hajj," Ms Yahra told The National.

"There are so many feelings in my mind because we were about to leave Saudi for good, then I’m accepted to do Hajj."

When told that the Saudi government was covering all expenses, she could not believe it.

"I asked how much I need to pay and when they said it is free, I thought it is a trick," she said.

Ms Yahra, who is married and has three daughters who live in Khobar, expressed her sorrow for those who did not have their applications accepted – and for her husband.

"I kept getting busy and I forgot to sign up for both of us," she said.

When Ms Yahra received the call she hesitated, because she did not want to go without her husband and children.

"My husband  told me to go and that he would take care of the kids because this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance," she said.

Ms Yahra said her family and friends expressed their happiness for her.

Her older sisters in Indonesia wanted to go. They had planned and studied for it but then the pandemic hit.

"This chance for me was beyond what everybody in my family imagined," she said, adding that her father "keeps crying" with pride.

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