Saudi Arabia warns of heat spike as Hajj winds down

Authorities recorded more than 2,700 cases of "heat exhaustion" on Sunday alone, says health ministry

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AFP
Muslim pilgrims cast their stones at a pillar symbolising Satan, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mina, Saudi Arabia, June 17, 2024. — Reuters

  • Temperatures forecast to go as high as 49°C in Makkah.
  • This year's Hajj drew around 1.8 million pilgrims.
  • Ministry advises "guests of God not to be exposed to the sun".


MINA: Saudi Arabia on Monday warned of a temperature spike in Makkah as Muslim pilgrims wrapped up the Hajj in searing conditions, with more than a dozen heat-related deaths confirmed.

One of the world's largest religious gatherings unfolded during the oven-like Saudi summer again this year, and authorities recorded more than 2,700 cases of "heat exhaustion" on Sunday alone, the health ministry said.

On Monday, temperatures were forecast to go as high as 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) in Makkah and in nearby Mina, where others were throwing stones at three concrete walls — a ritual known as "stoning the devil" that is the last major step of the Hajj.

"The holy sites today record the highest temperatures since the beginning of Hajj... with a degree that may reach 49 degrees Celsius, and we advise the guests of God not to be exposed to the sun," the health ministry said, according to the state-affiliated Al-Ekhbariya channel.

The Saudi health ministry announced 2,764 cases of heat exhaustion on Sunday due to sun exposure and "non-compliance with guidelines", which include taking shelter from the sun during the hottest times of day in the afternoon.

"Prevention is the most important, and the commitment of pilgrims not to go out at peak times except when necessary, or to use an umbrella, would reduce the incidence of heat exhaustion," the statement said.

"Our health guidelines for the coming days are clear and easy: carry an umbrella, drink water regularly, and avoid exposure to the sun."

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and all Muslims with the means must perform it at least once.

This year’s Hajj drew around 1.8 million pilgrims, 1.6 million of them from abroad, according to Saudi authorities.

Hosting the Hajj is a source of prestige for the Saudi royal family, and King Salman’s title includes "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" in Makkah and Madinah.