Tuesday October 26, 2021

More than two million Muslims embark on Haj

August 20, 2018

MAKKAH: More than two million Muslims from around the globe started the Haj pilgrimage on Sunday in Saudi Arabia, one of the world´s largest annual gatherings in a country undergoing unprecedented change.

The ultra-conservative kingdom — where religion remains a guiding force amid dramatic social and economic reforms — has mobilised vast resources for the six-day journey, a pillar of Islam. “It’s the dream of every Muslim to come here to Makkah,” said Frenchman Soliman Ben Mohri. “It’s the ultimate journey. What worries me is the return to my normal life. For the moment, I am in a dream,” the 53-year old said.

Every Muslim is required to complete the Haj journey to Islam’s holiest sites at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy enough and have the means to do so. Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed for the pilgrimage, which was struck by its worst ever disaster three years ago when around 2,300 worshippers were crushed to death in a stampede.

This year, the Saudis have launched a “smart Haj” initiative, with apps to help pilgrims with everything from travel plans to medical care.

The interior ministry said on Saturday that the number of pilgrims arriving in Makkah had already surpassed the two million mark, mostly from abroad including large contingents from Egypt, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Wearing the simple white garb of the pilgrim, most of the faithful began moving on Sunday from Makkah to the nearby Mina valley. They will spend the night there in fire-resistant tents in the desert, where temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius. Thousands of buses and vehicles carrying the pilgrims lined the eight kilometre road from Makkah to Mina. Many pilgrims made the journey walking under the scorching sun, some carrying white or blue umbrellas.