Over 2 million Muslims in Mecca for start of hajj pilgrimage

Over 2 million Muslims in Mecca for start of hajj pilgrimage”

Over two million Muslim pilgrims from across the world will perform Waqoof-e-Arafat, the main ritual of Hajj in the holy land of Islam today (Saturday).

Mecca, built in a desert valley, is home to the Kaaba, a cube structure that is the focal point of Islam and draped in a gold-embroidered black cloth.

This year's hajj takes place to a backdrop of Gulf tensions following a series of attacks on tankers, the downing of drones and the seizure of ships. Muslim minorities around the world also face increased threats, with Uighurs facing repression in China, Rohingya facing genocide in Myanmar and Kashmiris under a sweeping curfew and communication blackout in the Indian-administered territory. The atmosphere is spiritual, still and tranquil.

The Director also noted that the Directorate was already prepared for the second phase concerning the departure of the pilgrims to their various countries.

The Hajj, one of the world's largest religious gatherings, is one of Islam's five pillars and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives. This year, Saudi King Salman invited 200 survivors and relatives of the mosque attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand that killed 51 people.

For the well-heeled, the pilgrimage includes a partial stay in towering five-star hotels with lavish buffets overlooking the Kaaba.

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He expressed optimism that with prayers, Nigeria could move to the next level the current administration yearned for.

Many pilgrims will save for years to perform the hajj.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila has urged Nigerian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia to pray for the country's unity as they join Muslims globally to observe Arafat. In 2015, several thousand pilgrims died in a stampede and crush of pilgrims in Mina on a narrow pedestrian-only road leading to a site where Muslims take part in the symbolic stoning of the devil during the last three days of the hajj.

- Around 3,000 global flights have transported pilgrims to the kingdom, according to official figures. The government never released a final death count.

Arafat, a 230 feet granite hill about 20 km east of central Mecca in the plain of Arafat is also known as the "Mount of Mercy".

"We feel cleansed by achieving this pillar of Islam and meeting people from across the world".

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