LAHORE: Cricket legend Shoaib Akhtar Saturday left for Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, as a state guest of kingdom. Sharing his pictures in an Ahram, the former fast bowler announced the development on his official Twitter handle. The star player wrote: “Alhamdolillah going for honorary Hajj as the state guest of Saudi Arabia.” “I will also be addressing the Hajj Conference attended by leaders of the Muslim world in Makkah,” Akhtar wrote, expressing his gratitude to the Pakistani embassy in the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia. One of the five pillars of Islam, the Hajj must be undertaken by all Muslims who have the means at least once in their lives. It consists of a series of religious rites that are completed over five days in Islam’s holiest city, Makkah, and surrounding areas of western Saudi Arabia. Usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, about 2.5 million people participated in 2019. But after the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Saudi authorities announced they would only let 1,000 pilgrims take part. The following year, they increased the total to 60,000 fully vaccinated Saudi citizens and residents chosen through a lottery. However, in April, the kingdom announced it would permit one million Muslims from inside and outside the country to participate in this year’s Hajj.