More than two million Muslims begin Hajj pilgrimage

More than 1.8 million visas were delivered online without the need for middlemen


Afp August 09, 2019
The official further said that the ministry is trying to make it easier for intending pilgrims to get their biometric verification fast and easily. PHOTO: AFP

More than two million Muslims begin the annual Hajj on Friday as the Saudi hosts seek to deter politicisation of the pilgrimage against a backdrop of simmering Gulf tensions.

"All of the arms of state have been deployed (and) we are proud to serve as 'God's hosts'," said security forces spokesman Bassam Attia.

In total some 2.5 million faithful, the majority from abroad, will undertake the pilgrimage this year, according to local media.

"More than 1.8 million visas were delivered online without the need for middlemen. It's a success," said Hajj ministry official Hatim bin Hassan Qadi.

"We feel cleansed by achieving this pillar of Islam and meeting people from across the world. It's marvellous," said Mohamed Jaafar, a 40-year-old Egyptian pilgrim.

Mecca vendors cash in on hajj pilgrimage

"It's an indescribable feeling. You have to live it to understand it," said an Algerian in his fifties completing the pilgrimage for the first time.

"It's a golden opportunity and moment," said his female companion.

Mecca, built in a desert valley, is home to the Kaabah, a cube structure that is the focal point of Islam and draped in a gold-embroidered black cloth.

Worshippers will participate in weekly prayers late on Friday morning.

During the pilgrimage separate streams of men and women, grouped by nationality, will travel to Mina on foot or in buses provided by the authorities.

A total of "350,000 air-conditioned tents have been pitched," said a Saudi official.

Worshippers will climb Mount Arafat, also known as the "Mount of Mercy", for hours of prayers and Quran recitals.

After descending, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic "stoning of the devil".

That marks the beginning of Eidul Azha, the festival of sacrifice, marked on Sunday.

Pilgrims then return to the Grand Mosque to perform a final "tawaf" or walk around the Kaabah.

This year's Hajj takes place to a backdrop of Gulf tensions following a series of attacks on tankers, the downing of drones and maritime traffic being intercepted.

Saudi prepares for Hajj as Gulf tensions persist

Riyadh blames regional foe Tehran for the attacks on commercial shipping, accusations Iran vehemently denies.

Despite the absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries, some 88,550 Iranian pilgrims are due to take part in the Hajj this year according to the Tasnim news agency.

As in previous years, Saudi authorities have been at pains to stress that the Hajj is a religious event and have sought to prevent its politicisation.

Riyadh claimed its two-year embargo on Doha -- which includes restrictions on Qataris travelling to the kingdom -- would not affect the pilgrimage.

But Hajj official Hassan Qadi acknowledged "very few Qataris have come to Mecca for the pilgrimage".

Saudi's Hajj ministry accused Qatar of "politicising the Hajj and creating obstacles for Qatari pilgrims," the SPA state news agency reported.

The scale of the pilgrimage presents vast security and logistical challenges, with tens of thousands of safety officers deployed.

Riyadh faced strong criticism in 2015 when some 2,300 worshippers were killed in the worst stampede in the gathering's history.

E-Publications

Most Read

COMMENTS

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ