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In pictures: Foreign Muslims return to Mecca for Umrah pilgrimage

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Foreign Muslim pilgrims have been allowed into the Grand Mosque in Mecca for the first time since coronavirus restrictions were imposed seven months ago.

From Sunday, some 10,000 pilgrims from abroad were allowed to perform the Umrah pilgrimage, which Muslims can traditionally take at any time.

They had to self-isolate for three days after arriving in Saudi Arabia before being allowed to circle around the Kaaba – the holiest site in Islam – in the centre of the Grand Mosque.

Saudi Arabia has reported 347,282 cases of Covid-19 and 5,402 deaths since the pandemic started, and 333,842 recoveries. It is phasing the reopening of its mosques as part of a gradual easing of restrictions across the kingdom.

Saudi residents were allowed to perform the Umrah in October, and numbers were raised to accommodate pilgrims from abroad this month.

Only 10,000 Saudi Muslim residents were allowed to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage in July this year, vastly down from the millions who have taken part in previous years, like the one pictured below in 2016.

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