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Saudi Arabia’s Kaaba adorned with new cover as annual Haj commences

Mecca, SA: Saudi Arabia’s holy Kaaba in Mecca was adorned on Wednesday, July 29 with a new cover, also known as ‘Kiswah’, marking the beginning of the annual Haj amid tight restrictions and reduced pilgrim numbers due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Normally costing almost 24 million Saudi riyals ($6.4 million), the cover is externally made of 675 kilogrammes of pure black silk, and green silk internally. Tens of kilogrammes of gold and silver-plated threads are used to stitch verses of the holy Quran on the cloth. Muslim worshippers started the annual haj pilgrimage on Wednesday (July 29), which has been dramatically scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the first time in the modern era, amidst efforts to curb COVID-19, Muslims from abroad will be unable to attend the pilgrimage. This year's event has been limited to about 1,000 people from within Saudi Arabia, 70% of whom will be foreign residents of the kingdom. The remaining 30% will be drawn from Saudi healthcare workers and security personnel who have recovered from the coronavirus, as a gesture of thanks for their sacrifice.

Some 2.5 million Muslims typically visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long pilgrimage. A once-in-a-lifetime duty for able-bodied Muslims who can afford the cost, it is usually extremely crowded.

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