World Bulletin / News Desk
The hajj reached its high point Sunday when Muslims from across the world converged on a stoney hill in Saudi Arabia, a year after the worst tragedy in the pilgrimage's history.
They are spending the most important day of the annual hajj in prayer and reading from the Koran.
Arafat is the site where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed gave his last sermon about 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on the pilgrimage.
"I have the impression of standing exactly in front of God, said Khadem Ndyaye, 47, of Senegal.
"Muslims came here from everywhere and we are all the same. If all the world was like that, there wouldn't be any war. Here, we feel that Islam is a religion of peace."
Indian pilgrim Mohammed Arafan, 40, said he feels "chosen by God" for being able to perform the hajj.
"It's beautiful to see the Muslims of the world pray together here."
At midday prayer hundreds of thousands prostrated themselves, men and women side-by-side, in wide alleys that run between prefabricated pilgrim lodgings.
For the first time in years, Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh did not give his traditional Arafat sermon.
Okaz newspaper cited health reasons but Sheikh still attended the sermon given in his place by Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque.
Under multicoloured parasols to protect against the burning sun, the mass of people move through broad streets which are closed to traffic around Mount Arafat.
Throughout the day the faithful chant a traditional hajj incantation, "God, here I am."
From a distance, the hill appeared a snowy white from the seamless two-piece white garment, ihram, worn by male pilgrims.
They come from every corner of the globe, but Indonesia -- the most populous Muslim nation -- has the largest contingent.
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More than 1.8 million Muslims from around the world gathered in this year Hajj
For the first time in nearly three decades, Iran's 64,000 pilgrims are not attending the hajj in Saudi Arabia after the two regional rivals failed to agree on security and logistics.
Fatima, 38, managed to leave Syria after government troops assaulted her home neighbourhood of Baba Amr in the central city of Homs, one of the cradles of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad.
More than 1.8 million gathered from sunrise at the hill and a vast surrounding plain known as Mount Arafat, about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Mecca.
The pilgrims spend the day on the Arafat plateau in supplicating to God to forgive their sins
A Russian, a Chinese and a Malaysian – united in their desire to perform the Hajj – make the arduous journey to Saudi Arabia
The Hajj hosts millions of people and in doing so requires a dedicated amount of workers bringing together thousands of people to make the Hajj safe and easy for pilgrims
Some of the stories shared by pilgrims and people who work in Makkah. We’ve selected a few posts that touched our hearts.
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