The Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia operated at full capacity Sunday, with worshippers praying shoulder-to-shoulder for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began
Mecca drops social distancing
Workers removed floor markings that guide people to social distance in and around the Grand Mosque, which is built around the Kaaba, the black cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray
Adherence to COVID-19 norms
While social distancing measures were lifted, the authorities said visitors must be fully vaccinated against coronavirus and must continue to wear masks on mosque grounds.
Prestige for Saudi rulers
Hosting the pilgrimages is a matter of prestige for Saudi rulers, for whom the custodianship of Islam's holiest sites is their most powerful source of political legitimacy. The pilgrimage is also a key revenue earner for the kingdom that rake in a combined $12 billion annually.
Stadiums thrown open for Saudi sports fans
Saudi Arabia also announced that fully-inoculated sports fans will from Sunday be allowed to attend events at all stadiums and other sports facilities, reported SPA. It has also said that masks in most open spaces are no longer mandatory