FOR THE FIRST TIME, Saudi female officers have been permitted to guard Islam’s holiest sites

Hundreds of female soldiers have joined the security forces that monitor pilgrims in Mecca and Medina, the birthplaces of Islam, in a significant step toward women’s empowerment. Saudi female soldiers stood guard in Mecca for the first time this year as thousands of Muslim pilgrims performed the Hajj, according to Deutsche Welle.

Women dressed in military khaki uniforms were spotted monitoring the security situation at Mecca’s Grand Mosque. They were dressed in khaki with a hip-length jacket, loose trousers, and a black beret over a veil covering their hair.

People on Twitter applauded the achievement. Many users praised it as a significant step toward women’s empowerment. “For the first time in Makkah history, a female Saudi Guard performing duty during #Hajj #WomenEmpowerment,” one Twitter user wrote. “Long overdue, but never too late,” wrote another Twitter user.

Thousands of vaccinated Muslim pilgrims gathered in Mecca to perform Hajj in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.

The Hajj, one of Islam’s five pillars, concluded with the Eid al-Adha celebrations.

According to Al Jazeera, 10,000 vaccinated Muslim pilgrims circled Islam’s holiest site in Mecca on Sunday (July 18), but remained socially isolated and wore masks as the coronavirus wreaked havoc on the Hajj for the second year in a row. Previously attracting 2.5 million Muslims from all walks of life from around the world, the Hajj pilgrimage has grown to almost unrecognisable proportions. Due to ongoing concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, 60,000 vaccinated Saudi citizens or residents have been allowed to perform the Hajj this year. It is a far larger number than last year’s largely symbolic Hajj, which drew fewer than 1,000 people from within the kingdom.

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