Tears of joy: Makkah’s Grand Mosque opens to prayers after coronavirus hiatus

The mosque was closed in late March as a precaution

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Residents of Makkah and Madinah rejoiced on Sunday as daily prayers resumed at the Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque for the first time in eight months.

Closed in late March as a precaution to halt the spread of coronavirus, the mosques have begun to reopen in stages, with a select group of Saudi residents allowed to perform Hajj in July and August.

Sunday saw the biggest shift back to normality yet with the gradual resumption of Umrah and mosque visits for citizens and residents from inside the kingdom.

Ahmed Al Somahy, a resident of Makkah who often visited the Grand Mosque to perform prayers, was very happy to return for fajr prayers, for which a crowd of 75 per cent capacity was allowed.

“It has been a long time since I have been in the holy mosque in Makkah, which is about 10 kilometres from my house," Mr Al Somahy said.

"Today when I stepped inside the mosque tears came out of my eyes.

“The pandemic spread and prevented us from doing many things including praying inside the holy mosque but it was so great to pray the dawn prayer today."

Although numbers were reduced from pre-coronavirus levels, each part of the mosque had Muslims praying as the second phase of reopening began.

The first phase, launched on October 4, allowed 6,000 citizens and residents of the kingdom to perform Umrah each day, using 30 per cent of the Grand Mosque’s capacity.

Meanwhile, Nahid Al Ahmad, a resident of Madinah who works in media, said visiting the Prophet’s Mosque on Sunday was very easy and comfortable, with all precautionary measures in place.

Ms Al Ahmed and her family were excited to pray in the Prophet’s Mosque as doors were reopened for the first time in Al Rawdah Al Sharifah, where worshippers and visitors pray and visit the Prophet’s grave.

“There was joy, disbelief and gratitude as we all entered to visit the Prophet’s grave again,” she said.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque will allow 220,000 pilgrims and 560,000 worshippers to visit throughout the second phase of the Umrah, which lasts 14 days.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said Phase 1 comprised 54,000 pilgrims and 94 per cent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with precautions taken to keep them safe from the coronavirus.

No cases were detected from the pilgrimage.

The third phase will start on November 1.

Umrah, visits and prayers will be allowed for citizens and residents, and visitors from a select few countries, at full capacity.

That means 20,000 Umrah pilgrims and 60,000 worshippers a day can visit the two holy mosques.