Heavy Storm Surprises Hajj Pilgrims in Mecca

Frederick Owens
August 20, 2018

Saudi Arabia is preparing to host the annual hajj pilgrimage beginning Sunday, as over 2 million Muslim faithful are ready to take part in the ultraconservative kingdom.

The Hajj, which is expected to draw more than two million pilgrims this year, represents a key rite of passage for Muslims and a massive logistical challenge for Saudi authorities - as these stunning images show.

Prince Khaled has also said this year's hajj includes 300 pilgrims from Qatar, a neighbouring emirate hit by a major Saudi-led boycott.

Pilgrims clad in white robes signifying a state of purity spent the night in an encampment around the hill where Islam holds that God tested Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son Ismail. Nearly 14,000 global and domestic flights have so far transported pilgrims with around 21,000 buses also used.

Muslim pilgrims walk towards Namirah mosque on Arafat Mountain, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca on Sunday. Thousands of buses and vehicles carrying the pilgrims lined the eight kilometre (five-mile) road from Mecca to Mina.

Pilgrims pour out of cars stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, opting for a more brisk walking pace instead of a one tyre rotation every minute. That is the first event of Hajj that will require every pilgrim to be in the same place at a specific time, between noon and sunset.

On Monday, pilgrims will climb nearby Mount Arafat for the climax of the hajj, praying and reading the Koran.

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For those undertaking annual haj pilgrimage and reach the valley of Mount Arafat, it is the time for celebrations and feasting.

This year the hajj comes with the ultra-conservative kingdom witnessing an unprecedented pace of change, finally ending a ban on women driving while remaining firm in the face of any dissent.

Muslims will celebrate all over the world on Eid al-Adha or Festival of the Sacrifice, which is one of Islam's two major festivals and involves the sacrifice of an animal, usually a sheep, goat or cow.

One-third of all pilgrims live in Saudi Arabia but the remainder come from all over the world.

They have cut all ties with Qatar - which denies the charges - and banned all flights to and from Doha.

"There is no chance this year for Qatari citizens and residents to travel for Hajj", he said.

Saudi Arabia, and the three other Arab countries, closed land, air and sea links with Qatar in June previous year, accusing it of funding terrorism, which Doha denies.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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