The number of Qatari pilgrims who have arrived for Hajj in Saudi Arabia is about 30 percent higher than last year, despite ongoing tensions between the two Gulf countries.
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, the emir of Mecca province, said that 1,564 Qataris have arrived for Hajj this year, compared to 1,210 in 2016, according to Al Arabiya.
More than 2 million pilgrims total
In total, Prince Khaled said 1,752,014 pilgrims have arrived from outside the kingdom for the sacred pilgrimage. This marks a drastic increase of 426,263 over last year's numbers.
When adding in pilgrims from within Saudi Arabia, the number exceeds 2 million, the prince said.
The prince also countered criticism of the kingdom's handling of the Hajj season.
"All we seek is reward from Allah Almighty," he said, according to The Saudi Gazette. "We are proud that some are envious about the services being provided to the Guests of Allah. This is the best evidence that if we say something we deliver."
Ongoing tensions between Doha and Riyadh
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar have simmered since early June when Qatari news outlets aired controversial statements credited to the emirate's emir.
As the controversy grew, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt joined the kingdom in cutting commercial and diplomatic ties with Qatar. The land and air routes between Qatar and Saudi Arabia were also closed.
When the Hajj season came, Doha accused Riyadh of blocking Qatari pilgrims from making the journey. Saudi Arabia's King Salman responded by offering to transport Qatari pilgrims at his own expense on Saudi planes. The land border was also reopened to pilgrims.
Despite King Salman's generous offer, Doha did not immediately grant the Saudi aircraft permission to transport Qatari pilgrims. Yet, regardless of all these issues, Qatari pilgrims have been able to join their Muslim brothers at a higher rate than last year.