World Bulletin / News Desk
Two million Muslims from across the globe are converging on Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the hajj pilgrimage, a religious duty and for some pilgrims the journey of a lifetime.
This year sees the return of pilgrims from Shiite Iran, regional rival to Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, and comes with the Gulf.
"I'm so excited because many people dream of coming to this place," said 47-year-old Eni from Indonesia, her face framed in a sand-coloured veil trimmed with lace.
"We feel more religious when we leave this place," she said.
Eni's compatriots throng Jeddah airport 80 kilometres (50 miles) west of Mecca, as tens of thousands of pilgrims pass through the gateway to the hajj every day.
But Eni is almost oblivious to the hubbub that surrounds her as she studies her Koran in the oppressive heat, pearls of sweat beading her face.
"After my first pilgrimage I felt I wanted to come back to feel myself close to him," she said of the Prophet Mohammed before returning her attention to Islam's holy book.
The hajj is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith, which every Muslim is required to complete at least once in a lifetime if he or she has the means to do so.
"This year we expect around two million pilgrims," Abdelmajeed Mohammad Al-Afghani, director of hajj and umra (lesser pilgrimage) affairs, told AFP.
Last year’s pilgrimage saw 1.9 million Muslims visit holy cities of Mecca, Medina
Muslims from across the world are gathering in Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj pilgrimage to take part in the following rituals:
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, and it also provides the largest number of pilgrims for the hajj.
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Pilgrims traditionally visit Prophet Muhammad's Mosque in Medina either before or after completing Hajj ritual
Head of religious affairs congratulates Muslims from Mecca
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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