SOLYMONE BLOG

MECCA IS ALMOST DESERTED OVER THE COURCE OF 4 DAYS HEAVY RAINSTORMS.


JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Rare, heavy rainstorms soaked pilgrims and flooded the road into Mecca, snarling Islam’s annual hajj as millions of Muslims headed for the holy sites. The downpours add an extra hazard on top of intense concerns about the spread of swine flu.
  • Pilgrims in white robes porting umbrellas, some wearing face masks for fear of the flu, circled the black cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca, the opening rite for the hajj. But the shrine, Islam’s holiest site and the nearby, rain-soaked streets did not see the usual massive crowds, because many tried to stay inside nearby hotels or were caught up in the traffic jams heading into the city.
  • The hajj, a lifetime dream for Muslims to cleanse their sins is always a logistical nightmare, as a population the size of a small city moves between Mecca and holy sites in the nearby desert over the course of four days.
  • In the past, the rites have been plagued by deadly stampedes caused by congestion as the massive crowds perform the rituals — and Saudi authorities Wednesday were clearly concerned the rains could worsen the potential dangers. Civil authorities urged pilgrims to move cautiously and not to rush.
  • This year has brought the added worry that the massing of more than 3 million people from around the world could bring a swine flu outbreak. For months ahead of the pilgrimage, the Saudi government has been working with the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention to set up clinics and precautionary measures to stem any outbreak.
Source: AP
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