RIYADH: More than 1.4 million Muslims have so far arrived in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, authorities said Thursday.
More than two million people are expected to participate in this year’s Hajj, a pillar of Islam that capable Muslims must perform at least once in their lives, which starts next week.
“So far 1,313,946 pilgrims have arrived by air, 79,501 by land, and 12,477 by sea — an increase of 33 percent compared with the same period last year,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency said, citing passport officials.
That includes more than 400 Qatari pilgrims, local media reported, despite an intensifying row between Doha and Riyadh over arrangements for the religious event.
Overall, the kingdom is expecting 11 per cent more hajj pilgrims this year to reach 2.038 million, according to Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, advisor to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, governor of Makkah Region and chairman of the Central Hajj Committee.
In January, Saudi King Salman announced the lifting of a 20 per cent reduction in the quota for foreign pilgrims and a 50 per cent reduction in the quota for domestic pilgrims originally introduced to allow expansion work to take place.
This followed a 10-year low of 1.86 million hajj pilgrims last year, down from a 2012 peak of 3.16 million.
All Qatari pilgrims arrived through the Salwa border crossing with Qatar.
The ministry added it was equipped to handle the additional crowds after the completion of expansion works at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the most revered site in Islam.
More than 1.8 million faithful took part in last year’s Hajj.