Saudi Arabia Blocks Hajj Visas From West African

Saudi Arabia Blocks Hajj Visas From West African
Saudi Arabia is blocking Hajj pilgrims from three West African countries suffering large Ebola virus outbreaks from making the iconic Muslim visit to Mecca, while a Saudi man is being tested for the hemorrhagic fever after traveling to Sierra Leone.

The Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) announced Monday it would block any Hajj visas for anyone traveling from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

“We have communicated the instructions to the officials of all ports of entry. We have trained our personnel on how to identify and deal with Ebola cases and control virus infection, should it happen,” Dr. Khalid Marghalani, MOH spokesman says.

The Hajj is a compulsory pilgrimage to Mecca that every able-bodied Muslim worldwide must make at least once in their life. The Umrah is a similar pilgrimage, but can be done at any point in the year and isn’t an obligation under Islam. Over 3 million Muslims from around the world made the Hajj pilgrimage in 2013, but that was actually down from 2012 because of fears over the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak there.

One of the Hajj’s most spectacular moments, and the most dangerous as far as communicable diseases go, is the massive Tawaf –or circling -- of the Kaaba building in Islam’s most sacred mosque, Al-Masjid al-Haram. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims gather together to circle the Kaaba building together in close contact. (Source International Business Times)‎

This year's Hajj takes place from Oct 1-6. Hajj packages

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