Million-plus Begin Hajj Pilgrimage Under Shadow Of Gaza War

Million-plus begin hajj pilgrimage under shadow of Gaza war

Mina, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 14th Jun, 2024) More than one million Muslim pilgrims streamed into a giant tented city near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, under a scorching sun on Friday as the hajj pilgrimage got underway against the grim backdrop of the Gaza war.

Robed worshippers arrived on buses or on foot, many shaded by umbrellas, at the vast encampment after performing the "tawaf" -- walking seven times around the Kaaba, the giant black cube at Mecca's Grand Mosque.

Chanting "God is great" and "God, we answer your call", many were awash with spiritual fervour as they followed in the footsteps of the Prophet Mohammed's final pilgrimage nearly 1,400 years ago.

Participants, who numbered 1.5 million by Monday, have travelled from all parts of the world for the annual rites, this year held in sweltering conditions with forecast daily highs of 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit).

"It's very, very hot," said Fahad Azmar, 31, from Pakistan. "But I thank God for the opportunity to be here."

They will spend the night at Mina, a rocky valley several kilometres (miles) outside Mecca, before climbing Mount Arafat for the pilgrimage's climax on Saturday.

Accommodation in Mina's air-conditioned tents is organised by nationality and price, depending on how much each pilgrim paid for their hajj package.

"There should be more space between the beds, and the air-conditioning doesn't work very well... but the hajj is all about patience," said Intisham al-Ahi, a 44-year-old Pakistani who was sharing a tent with dozens of his compatriots.