Saudi officials say fewer pilgrims with less money to spend could lead to a 50-percent drop in sales at Saudi businesses during this year's Haj. Diane Hodges reports.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are arriving each day in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for annual ritual known as the Haj, in which Muslims visit Islam's holiest sites during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar. Last year, an estimated two million Muslims performed the Haj, but Saudi officials say only about 1.3 million had arrived by September 7th this year. And many of those who come are not shopping. Gold salesman Ali Al-Hirabi attributes the drop in sales to political instability in the Middle East. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GOLD SALESMAN, ALI AL-HIRABI, SAYING: "Arab countries are experiencing problems and wars and this has affected people's incomes. The pilgrims who do come don't feel like buying anything." The Haj began on September 10 and lasts for five days. Among the rituals the pilgrims will perform is walking around the Kaaba, the ancient shrine all Muslims face when they perform their daily prayers.