Mecca’s Grand Mosque is almost completely empty as Saudi Arabia prepares to host a scaled-back Hajj pilgrimage.
READ MORE: Muslim pilgrims have started arriving in Mecca for a drastically scaled-down hajj as Saudi authorities balance the kingdom's oversight of one of Islam's key pillars and the safety of visitors in the face of a global pandemic.
The hajj, which begins Wednesday, normally draws about 2.5 million people for five intense days of worship in one of the world's largest gatherings of people from around the world.
This year, Saudi Arabia's Hajj Ministry has said between 1,000 and 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage. Two-thirds of those pilgrims will be from among foreign residents in Saudi Arabia and one-third will be Saudi citizens.
The kingdom has one of the Mideast's largest outbreaks of the coronavirus, with more than 266,000 reported infections, including 2,733 deaths.