Pilgrims arrive in Mecca for downsized hajj amid pandemic

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Muslim pilgrims have started arriving in Mecca for a drastically scaled-down hajj. Saudi authorities Monday were trying to balance the kingdom’s oversight of one of Islam’s key pillars and the safety of visitors in the face of a global pandemic. The hajj, which begins Wednesday, normally draws around 2.5 million people for five intense days of worship. But for the first time in Saudi history, no pilgrims from abroad are permitted to take part in the hajj. Instead, some between 1,000 and 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage. Two-thirds will be from among foreign residents in Saudi Arabia and a third will be Saudi citizens.