Riyadh, June 17 (IANS) Saudi Arabia has called upon foreign pilgrims to postpone their Haj plans this year due to ongoing expansion work at Makkah's Grand Mosque, Xinhua reported.
According to Arab News, this was highlighted through a series of announcements through the Holy Quran television channel from Makkah, the government advised pilgrims intending to perform Haj and Umrah this year to postpone their plans to the Grand Mosque.
The unprecedented move aims at preventing congestion and stampedes as well as ensuring the safety of pilgrimages.
The call came after the government's decision to reduce the number of foreign pilgrims by 20 per cent and domestic pilgrims by 50 per cent this year. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh has backed the measure, saying that it was taken in public interest.
According to official figure, 3.161 million pilgrims preformed Haj last year; if the illegal Haj pilgrims are taken into account, the figure could be around 4 million.