Muslim pilgrims finish the annual haj pilgrimage

STORY: Haj, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, is a major source of income for the government from worshippers’ lodging, transport, fees and gifts.

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, allowed back foreign travelers this year to perform the haj after two years of major disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic.

Authorities have said only one million people can join the 2022 season, less than half of pre-pandemic levels, and access is restricted to pilgrims aged 18 to 65 who have been fully vaccinated or immunized against the virus and do not suffer from chronic diseases.