More than 2 million Muslims begin the annual Hajj pilgrimage

More than 2 million Muslims begin the annual Hajj pilgrimage

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.

Many were visibly moved to be so close to Islam's holiest site - the Kaaba, a black masonry cube in the centre of Mecca's Grand Mosque.

"For many Muslims this is the big, the biggest, dream of life, to see Kaaba and pray for yourself and the whole Muslim nation".

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a mandatory duty for all Muslims to make once in a lifetime if they possesses enough financial resources and are physically capable of undertaking the journey to the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed.

"Registration of pilgrims from the State of Qatar remains closed and residents of Qatar can not be granted visas as there are no diplomatic missions", added the official. If a pilgrim doesn't perform the wuquf, their Hajj isn't valid. The temperature in Mecca and Mina will be around 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit). Long lines and even longer waits can strain even the most patient as they weave through the throngs of people. King Salman's official title is the "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques", at Mecca and Medina.

A deadly stampede in 2015 left more than 2,000 pilgrims dead in Mina, the Makkah neighbourhood where the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual takes place during hajj.

A crush in 2015 killed almost 800 pilgrims, according to Riyadh, although counts by countries of repatriated bodies showed over 2,000 may have died, more than 400 of them Iranians.

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The Hajj may draw two million people from around the globe this year. The kingdom has never addressed the discrepancy, nor has it released any results of an investigation authorities promised to conduct over the disaster. "These things do not happen with the security forces in the present world".

Politics often intrude into the holy pilgrimage.

According to Saudi Arabian media, Muslims from 164 countries are participating in this year's Hajj.

Meanwhile, a Saudi-led war in Yemen against Shiite rebels drags on without an end in sight.

The interior ministry has put in place measures to confront any security threat from militant attacks to political protests, but no specific threats have been detected, a spokesman said on Saturday.

The Hajj brings together Muslims from all over the world, regardless of culture, ethnicity, sect or class. Though the border was open hardly anybody from Qatar could perform the pilgrimage a year ago because of the hurdles and humiliation they were subjected to, sources said. This is where pilgrims ask Allah (God) for forgiveness for any past sins.

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