‘It feels like a dream’: Pilgrims walk around the Kaaba in first Hajj ritual

A hadnout picture released by the Saudi ministry of media shows a small number of pilgrims circumambulating around the Kaaba (not seen in picture) at the center of the Grand Mosque in Makkah at the start of the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage on July 29, 2020. (Saudi Ministry Of Media via AFP)
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Updated 30 July 2020

‘It feels like a dream’: Pilgrims walk around the Kaaba in first Hajj ritual

  • Only about 1,000 pilgrims participate in this year's Hajj to prevent the spread of the coronavirus
  • Female officers are on duty with Makkah’s police force this Hajj season for the first time

JEDDAH: Hajj 2020 began in earnest on Wednesday as 1,000 pilgrims began their spiritual journey amid a raft of protective measures to ensure their health and safety.
The pilgrims walked into the Grand Mosque in Makkah to start the rituals with their first “tawaf,” the circumambulation of the Kaaba.

“This is an indescribable feeling,” said Mohamed Ibrahim, 43, an Egyptian electrician from Madinah. “It feels like a dream.”
The pilgrims were directed into the mosque in small groups, walking along paths marked on the floor, in contrast to the sea of humanity that usually swirls around the Kaaba during Hajj.
Numbers are restricted this year to about 1,000, compared with the usual 2.5 million, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Female officers are on duty with Makkah’s police force this Hajj season for the first time since women were enabled to serve in 2019. Afnan Abu Hussein was among the first group to graduate from the training course. “This is a source of pride and happiness for us,” she said.

Macedonian pilgrim Hamide Halimi told Arab News she was pleased at being able to perform Hajj in the company of other women.
“In my group, we’re 20-something women and throughout this experience, I’ve been with women only … it’s an amazing sisterhood experience,” she said.
Halimi has performed Umrah before, but the crowds were so large she was far from the Kaaba and had to circumambulate from the Grand Mosque’s roof. This year she could not believe how close she was to the Kaaba. “It was a surreal moment that I could never have imagined happening,” she said.
Later on Wednesday, the pilgrims returned to their accommodation in Mina, where they spent the night in prayer and reflection. On Thursday, in the spiritual pinnacle of the Hajj, they will climb Mount Arafat, the “Mount of Mercy.”

Ammar Khaled, 29, an Indian pilgrim born and raised in Saudi Arabia, said that although he was alone on the Hajj he was praying for his loved ones. “Words aren’t enough to explain how blessed I feel,” he said.


Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari, Saudi ambassador to Lebanon

Updated 09 August 2020

Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari, Saudi ambassador to Lebanon

Saudi Arabia has stepped up its relief efforts in Lebanon following the deadly explosions in Beirut.

Saudi Ambassador Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari said the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center began organizing emergency aid immediately after the incident.

Bukhari has been the Saudi envoy to Lebanon since December 2018. He previously served as charge d’affaires at the embassy from March 2018 until his current appointment.

Bukhari obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science with distinction at the King Abdul Aziz University in 1995.

He obtained a higher diploma in diplomatic studies at the Institute of Diplomatic Studies in Riyadh in 2000, and a master’s in international politics from California State University, Fullerton.

He joined the Saudi diplomatic corps in 1996. In 1999, he was appointed deputy head of the mission of the Kingdom’s embassy in Niger.

Bukhari served as the consul general in Los Angeles from 2002 to 2006. In 2007, he was appointed to the office of the undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He became director of total quality management in 2009.

In 2013, he was assigned a role at the Saudi Embassy in Berlin. He was appointed assistant director general of planning and development at the ministry in 2016. He also served as the director general of diplomatic affairs and protocol and deputy undersecretary for protocol affairs in 2017.