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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Saudi Gazette report
MAKKAH — Saudi Arabia on Saturday reopened the area around the sacred Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site, reversing one of a series of measures introduced to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Saudi authorities this week suspended the year-round Umrah pilgrimage, during which worshipers circle the Kaaba seven times, and also announced the temporary closure of the area around the cube structure.
But Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has "allowed for the opening of the Mataf (where people circle the Kaaba) for non-Umrah performers" starting on Saturday at dawn, the official saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Hundreds of Muslims were seen circumambulating the Kaaba, but the area between two hills — Safa and Marwah — that pilgrims must go between seven times to complete Umrah remained closed.
Barricades blocked access to the Kaaba, draped in a gold-embroidered black cloth, while men in green uniforms cleaned the white-tiled floor.
The General President for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques Sheikh Dr. Abdurrahman Al-Sudais stressed the need to adhere to the precautionary procedures and cooperation with all the workers in the Grand Mosque to serve its visitors.
Authorities had emptied the Grand Mosque for sterilization on Thursday.
Prayers will be allowed at the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah and in Makkah’s Grand Mosque while the Umrah is suspended, apart from during nighttime cleaning and sterilization.
The suspension has left thousands of Muslim pilgrims in limbo.
Around two-thirds of the 18.3 million Umrah participants in 2018 were citizens and residents of the Kingdom, according to government statistics.
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