Coronavirus forces Makkah women to abandon 70-year-long noble tradition

Friday, July 31, 2020

MAKKAH — The coronavirus pandemic turned out to be a villain as it caused Makkah women to abandon their 70-year-long tradition of flocking to the Holy Kaaba in droves as all the pilgrims and male citizens of Makkah would move to Arafat on Dhul Hijjah 9, the Arafat Day, marking the climax of the annual pilgrimage.

It used to be a rare scene every year when a large number of the local women faithful, in their black abayas, gathered around Islam’s holiest shrine, giving a distinct visual treat of the mataf (area around Kaaba for circumambulation) with white marble flooring.

The women used to make the most of the opportunity and perform tawaf (circumambulation), kiss the Black Stone, pray at Multazam (the area between the Black Stone and the door of Kaaba), and break their fast at mataf at their free will. They spent many hours of the day near the Kaaba, and then go back to their homes.

This tradition dates back to more than 70 years as male citizens of Makkah began accompanying Hajj pilgrims to offer them different kinds of services when the pilgrims ascended the vast plains of Arafat, marking the climax of Hajj.

Sameer Barqa, a researcher on the history of Makkah, said that Arafat Day came to be known among the Makkah women as “Al-Khaleef Day.” Al-Khaleef means one who stayed back (from Hajj).

“In the past, it was the tradition of all male members of the Makkah’s society to be fully involved in Hajj activities and thus giving a rare opportunity for women to spend the blessed day in the most blessed place on earth."

"When men went to the holy sites from the day of Tarwiyah, the first day of Hajj, the holy city of Makkah would be empty of men and then the women would go out to guard the neighborhoods also,” he said. However, this year, the coronavirus prevented women from maintaining this tradition as they were forced to stay indoors due to precautionary measures and preventive protocols.