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General view of the Grand Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS

Hard Numbers:  Hajj turnout record, Guatemalan runoff, Pakistan’s austerity budget, Mali referendum

2.5 million: More than 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims are expected to attend this year's Hajj in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. If the figure is confirmed, it'll be the largest turnout ever, driven by pent-up demand following three years of COVID crowd caps.

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What We're Watching: Hajj passports, AfD vs German intelligence, Turkey's human rights plan

Passport to the Hajj — Saudi Arabia announced that it will require pilgrims to have vaccine passports in order to enter the country for the annual Hajj later this year. Each year, millions of Muslims from dozens of countries travel to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina to fulfill a religious obligation, in an annual event that brings in billions of dollars for the Saudi economy. The vaccine passport requirement may mean that people without means or access to vaccines in their home countries will be shut out of the Hajj this year, but Riyadh is relying on the scheme to help them pull off the event — after last year's event was mainly cancelled amid the pandemic— without fomenting a COVID outbreak.

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