The first batch of 145 Kashmiri Hajj pilgrims set off on Monday for the annual pilgrimage to the holiest place for Muslims in Mecca.
(A Kashmiri Hajj pilgrim with her belongings waits for her ticket before departing for Mecca, in Srinagar October 17.)
A total of 8,300 pilgrims from the Kashmir region are expected to perform this year's ritual, authorities said.
The "Haj" is supposed to be the religious duty of all the Muslims, once in a lifetime.
(A security personnel directs with a baton at the relatives of Kashmiri Hajj pilgrims, to not cross the barbed wires before the pilgrims' departure for Mecca, in Srinagar October 17.)
Mohd. Yunus, one of the "hajjis" said that he is very happy about going on Haj and it is going to be an opportunity to thank God.
(A Kashmiri Hajj pilgrim with her hand decorated with henna waves from a window of a bus before departing for Mecca, in Srinagar October 17.)
The "Hajjis" this year would be going to Jeddah via Delhi which makes the trip a little uncomfortable in terms of journey. They have demanded for direct flights from Srinagar in the future.
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2.085 million Muslims completed the pilgrimage amid fears of epidemic threats posed by Ebola and MERS outbreaks.
Thousands of non-Muslims were invited to mosques on Friday by Muslim organizations to encourage cultural exchange.
Muslim clerics are becoming concerned about the number of pilgrims taking pictures of themselves during what is supposed to be a time of humility and tranquillity.
Pilgrims, clad in seamless white clothes, will spend the day in prayers and recitation of the Quran.
The kingdom expects nearly 3 million pilgrims in Mecca this year, including 1.4 million from abroad.
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Pilgrims – coming from all over the world – will spend one day and one night in prayer before setting out for Mount Arafat on Friday morning for the spiritual journey's climax.
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