The annual Muslim pilgrimage of Hajj began Friday with more than two million Muslims performing the rituals under sweltering conditions. Saudi officials said that 2.26 million pilgrims had arrived in Mina by late Friday, of which 1.86 million were from abroad.

Ariel view of the pilgrims

The Hajj, one of the world’s largest annual religious gatherings, is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.

Tents at Mina

The pilgrims on Saturday performed the Rukn-e-Azam of Hajj Waqoof-e-Arafat in Maidan-e- Arafat and listened to the Hajj sermon delivered from Masjid-e-Nimra. They will spend the day in prayer after which they will leave for Muzdalifah where they will offer Maghrib and Isha prayers together and spend the night under the open sky. From Muzdalifah, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic “stoning of the devil”. That marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, marked on Sunday. Pilgrims then return to the Grand Mosque to perform a final “tawaf” or walk around the Kaaba.


Meanwhile, the annual ceremony to change the Ghilaf-e-Kaaba (Kiswah) was also held on Saturday at the Grand Mosque of Makkah (Masjid-Al-Haram). The new Ghilaf has been prepared at a cost of seven million Saudi Riyal. Six hundred seventy kilogram pure silk, 120 kilogram gold and one hundred kilogram silver have been used in it.

The covering cloth of the Kaaba, known as Kiswah, is changed on 9th Zilhaj every year on the day of Arafat. The Kiswah, a heavy silk cloth embroidered with verses of the Holy Quran in golden embroidery.

To facilitate the Hajis, the Saudi government made extensive arrangements. Cooling mist sprays were deployed across the area as temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Mobile clinics and ambulances were on standby along the route, while Saudi Red Crescent helicopters monitored the pilgrims’ progress from the sky. Tens of thousands of safety officers have been deployed to ensure a smooth pilgrimage for the worshippers.