Ramadan: Thousands of Muslim worshippers pack Mecca's Grand Mosque

Thousands of Muslim worshippers pack Mecca’s Grand Mosque for Ramadan’s Night of Power after two years of socially distanced prayers at holy site

  • Pictures on Wednesday night showed thousands of worshippers inside the Great Mosque of Mecca 
  • But the true number of people gathered at the mosque in Saudi Arabia was only visible in aerial photographs
  • Such scenes have not been seen since the Covid pandemic put a halt to global travel and large gatherings
  • Ramadan’s 27th night – called Laylat Al Qadr, or the Night of Power – is believed to be the holiest evening in the Islamic calendar. It marks the moment that Muslims believe the Quran was sent to earth from heaven 
  • Thousands of Muslims gathered at other holy sites the world over, including at Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock 
  • Tens of thousands of worshippers gathered at the Grand Mosque in Mecca last night to mark the 27th night of Ramadan, filling the Muslim holy site for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

    Pictures on Wednesday showed thousands of worshippers inside the mosque (Masjid al-Haram) itself, praying and walking in a circle around the Kaaba – the black cube-shaped building at its centre.

    But the true number of people gathered at the mosque in Saudi Arabia was only visible in aerial photographs, which showed thousands more pilgrims gathered on the buildings around the Kaaba, as rain fell overhead.

    Such scenes have not been seen since 2019, and since the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to global travel and large crowds due to the high risk of the virus spreading. While some prayers were held for Ramadan in 2020 and 2021, numbers allowed inside the mosque were limited because of social distancing.

    Ramadan’s 27th night – called Laylat Al Qadr, or the Night of Power in English – is believed to be the holiest evening in the Islamic calendar. It marks the moment that Muslims believe the Quran was sent to earth from heaven, and when the first verses of the holy book were revealed to the world by the prophet Mohammed.

    To mark the occasion that falls within Ramadan’s final ten days, worshippers from around the world gather at the Islamic world’s holiest site – Mecca – to pray and reflect.

    2022: Tens of thousands of worshippers gathered at the Grand Mosque in Mecca last night to mark the 27th night of Ramadan, filling the Muslim holy site for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began

    2022: Tens of thousands of worshippers gathered at the Grand Mosque in Mecca last night to mark the 27th night of Ramadan, filling the Muslim holy site for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began

    2021: Such scenes have not been seen for over two years, since the Covid pandemic put a halt to global travel and large crowds due to the high risk of the virus spreading. While some prayers were held for Ramadan in 2020 and 2021 (pictured on May 9, when the 27th night of Ramadan fell last year), numbers allowed inside the mosque were limited

    2021: Such scenes have not been seen for over two years, since the Covid pandemic put a halt to global travel and large crowds due to the high risk of the virus spreading. While some prayers were held for Ramadan in 2020 and 2021 (pictured on May 9, when the 27th night of Ramadan fell last year), numbers allowed inside the mosque were limited

    2022: Pictures on Wednesday night showed thousands of worshippers inside the Great Mosque of Mecca (Masjid al-Haram) itself, praying and walking in a circle around the Kaaba - the cube-shaped building at its centre

    2022: Pictures on Wednesday night showed thousands of worshippers inside the Great Mosque of Mecca (Masjid al-Haram) itself, praying and walking in a circle around the Kaaba – the cube-shaped building at its centre

    2021: This picture taken late on May 9, 2021 during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, from the Mecca Royal Clock Tower of the Abraj al-Bait skyscraper complex, shows an aerial view of Muslim worshippers around the Kaaba. The last two years have seen number allowed inside the mosque limited due to social distancing

    2021: This picture taken late on May 9, 2021 during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, from the Mecca Royal Clock Tower of the Abraj al-Bait skyscraper complex, shows an aerial view of Muslim worshippers around the Kaaba. The last two years have seen number allowed inside the mosque limited due to social distancing 

    The true number of people gathered at the mosque in Saudi Arabia was only visible in aerial photographs (pictured), which showed thousands more pilgrims gathered on the buildings around the Kaaba - as rain fell overhead

    The true number of people gathered at the mosque in Saudi Arabia was only visible in aerial photographs (pictured), which showed thousands more pilgrims gathered on the buildings around the Kaaba – as rain fell overhead

    When Muslims pray around the world, they face in the direction of the Kaaba (the black cuboid building pictured left). Ever since the time of the prophet Muhammad, believers have made the pilgrimage to the holy site from the world over

    When Muslims pray around the world, they face in the direction of the Kaaba (the black cuboid building pictured left). Ever since the time of the prophet Muhammad, believers have made the pilgrimage to the holy site from the world over

    Muslims perform late night prayers on the night of 27th Ramadan in the Grand Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, April, 2022

    Muslims perform late night prayers on the night of 27th Ramadan in the Grand Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, April, 2022

    Pictured: An aerial photograph shows Mecca on Wednesday night, as thousands gathered to mark Ramadan. In the background, the Mecca Royal Clock Tower of the Abraj al-Bait skyscraper complex towers above the worshipers

    Pictured: An aerial photograph shows Mecca on Wednesday night, as thousands gathered to mark Ramadan. In the background, the Mecca Royal Clock Tower of the Abraj al-Bait skyscraper complex towers above the worshipers

    Pictured: A combination picture showing a small group of worshippers praying while practicing social distancing, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during the holy month of Ramadan in May 4, 2020, Muslims performing late night prayers while practicing social distancing on the night of 27th Ramadan, in May 9, 2021, and Muslims performing late night prayers on the night of 27th Ramadan in the Grand Mosque, April 27, 2022, in Mecca, Saudi Arabi

    Pictured: A combination picture showing a small group of worshippers praying while practicing social distancing, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during the holy month of Ramadan in May 4, 2020, Muslims performing late night prayers while practicing social distancing on the night of 27th Ramadan, in May 9, 2021, and Muslims performing late night prayers on the night of 27th Ramadan in the Grand Mosque, April 27, 2022, in Mecca, Saudi Arabi

    Similar gatherings of Muslims were seen around the world on Wednesday, including in Jerusalem, and in recent weeks during the holy month of Ramadan. 

    During Ramadan, observant Muslims refrain from eating and drinking during daylight hours, and traditionally gather with family and friends to break their fast in the evening.

    Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five ‘pillars’ of Islam – in addition to faith, prayer, charity and pilgrimage. 

    The pilgrimage pillar says that every Muslin, who is healthy and can afford the journey, must visit Mecca at least once during their life to mark Hajj – the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that this year falls in July. Muslims believe the Kaaba – at the centre of Mecca – is the house that Abraham built for God.

    When Muslims pray around the world, they face in the direction of the Kaaba. Ever since the time of the prophet Muhammad, believers have made the pilgrimage to the holy site from the world over.

    Pictures from outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque also showed thousands of people gathering to pray on Laylat al-Qadr – the famous golden dome shining against the night sky.

    Worshippers also gathered in Gaza, the Palestinian enclave in Israel, at the Sayed al-Hashim Mosque.

    Pictures from outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque also showed thousands of people gathering to pray on Laylat al-Qadr - the famous golden dome shining against the night sky.

    Pictures from outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque also showed thousands of people gathering to pray on Laylat al-Qadr – the famous golden dome shining against the night sky.

    Palestinian devotees pray on Laylat al-Qadr outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan late on April 27, 2022

    Palestinian devotees pray on Laylat al-Qadr outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan late on April 27, 2022

    Palestinians pray on Laylat al-Qadr during the holy month of Ramadan, at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount

    Palestinians pray on Laylat al-Qadr during the holy month of Ramadan, at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount

    Pictured: Hundreds of worshippers gather outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, April 27

    Pictured: Hundreds of worshippers gather outside the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, April 27

    Palestinian devotees pray during Laylat al-Qadr during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at Sayed al-Hashim Mosque in Gaza City, early on April 28, 2022

    Palestinian devotees pray during Laylat al-Qadr during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan at Sayed al-Hashim Mosque in Gaza City, early on April 28, 2022

    Muslims gather at Sayed al-Hashim Mosque to perform prayer during the Laylat al-Qadr, one of the Muslim's holiest nights, in Gaza City, Gaza on April 27, 2022

    Muslims gather at Sayed al-Hashim Mosque to perform prayer during the Laylat al-Qadr, one of the Muslim’s holiest nights, in Gaza City, Gaza on April 27, 2022

    Earlier this month, thousands of Muslims gathered in Bangladesh at one of the biggest mosques in the world – also to celebrate Ramadan. More than 40,000 people attended the two hour Jummah prayer gathering, held at the National Mosque in Dhaka.

    Azim Khan Ronnie, a 35-year-old freelance photographer from Dhaka, said: ‘The gathering was for the Friday Middle Prayer in the month of Ramadan, it is one of the most important days of the year for Muslims.

    ‘This has been happening for thousands of years.’

    The snapper captured  the crowds from above to show the scale of the gathering at the mosque, which can hold up to 100,000 people, including in the outside open space.

    ‘Thousands of people come together to pray over several floors of one of the biggest mosques in the world,’ Azim said. ‘Those taking part in group prayers can be seen neatly lined up side by side as they stand, sit, kneel and bow during prayers.

    ‘Around 40,000 people were visiting the mosque – decorated in beautiful teal and gold – for weekly prayers.

    Known as Baitul Mukarram or The Holy House in English, The National Mosque of Bangladesh is one of the 10 largest mosques in the world.

    Earlier this month, thousands of Muslims gathered in Bangladesh at one of the biggest mosques in the world - also to celebrate Ramadan. More than 40,000 people attended the two hour Jummah prayer gathering

    Earlier this month, thousands of Muslims gathered in Bangladesh at one of the biggest mosques in the world – also to celebrate Ramadan. More than 40,000 people attended the two hour Jummah prayer gathering

    Pictured: Thousands of Muslims gather at one of the biggest mosques in the world to celebrate Ramadan, April 15

    Pictured: Thousands of Muslims gather at one of the biggest mosques in the world to celebrate Ramadan, April 15