MAKKAH: More than two million Muslims began the main rituals of Hajj on Wednesday, heading from the holy city of Makkah to Mina where they rest and pray for the night before moving on to Mount Arafat.
The pilgrims, of whom nearly 1.7 million came to Saudi Arabia from abroad, started to travel by bus, on foot or with the Mashair light railway to the arid plain of Mina where they will spend the night in government supplied tents.
The pilgrims’ stay in Makkah has so far been incident-free, with some 25,700 members of the Saudi security forces deployed throughout the kingdom’s holy cities.
In Mina, 100 civil defence teams are on call, ready to deal with emergencies.
The passage to Mina marks the official launch of Hajj on the eighth day of the Muslim calendar month of Zil Hajj.
The day is known as Tarwiah (Watering) as pilgrims in the past stopped at Mina to feed their animals and stock up for the following day’s trip to Mount Arafat.
On Thursday, they will ascend to Mount Arafat, some 10 kilometres (six miles) southeast of Mina, to spend the day in prayer.
After sunset, they head to Muzdalifah, between Mina and Arafat, where pilgrims collect stones to throw at the devil, one of the last rituals which takes place Friday and marks the first day of Eidul Azha, the annual feast of sacrifice.
The symbolic “stoning of the devil” is followed by the ritual sacrifice of an animal, usually a lamb.
During the remaining three days of Hajj, the pilgrims continue the ritual stoning before performing the Tawaf (circumambulation) of the Holy Kaaba in Makkah and heading home.
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Was there last year, wish I could go again every year. Such a large spiritual gathering of the Muslim ummah makes one want to be amongst them every year.
LABAIK ALLAH HUMMA LABAIK , LABAIK LA SHARIK A LAKA LABAIK , INNALHUMDA WANAIMATA LAKA WALMULK LA SHAREEK KA LUK