Area around Kaaba briefly emptied for sterilization

Thursday, March 5, 2020

MAKKAH — The immediate area surrounding Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba, was emptied out earlier on Thursday as health authorities sanitized the area amid coronavirus concerns, videos and photos posted on social media showed.

The location, called the “Mataf” in Arabic, refers to the open white area immediately around the Kaaba where Haj and Umrah pilgrims perform the “tawaf” or circumambulation.

Part of any Haj or Umrah pilgrim’s duties during their pilgrimage is to circle the Kaaba in a counter-clockwise direction seven times.

Saudi Arabia has so far expanded a rare suspension on pilgrimages to the holy cities in Makkah and Madinah by foreigners, citizens and residents due as well as Gulf citizens amid rising concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus.