Hajj pilgrims
Pilgrims pray atop Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy), southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca, during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage, early on July 8, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Saudi authorities have reintroduced a voluntary Hajj programme after the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic prompted its cessation for the past two years. Around 3,000 volunteers are engaged in “Be Supportive”, a programme overseen by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to offer a wide range of services to pilgrims including welcome, healthcare, guidance, translation, assistance of the elderly faithful, and curtailment of food waste as well as administrative support.

The volunteers are divided into groups working round the clock in holy sites. They had attended a series of courses to qualify them for providing the services.

The programme, one of the ministry’s community responsibility efforts, also aims to regulate and coordinate voluntary participation in serving pilgrims, who include overseas worshippers for the first time since the epidemic started.

Saudi Arabia has allowed 1 million pilgrims from inside and outside the kingdom to perform Hajj, after restricting the annual ritual to some thousands of Muslims living inside the country for the last two years due to COVID-19 outbreak.