More Than 2 Million Muslims Begin Annual Hajj Pilgrimage

Hajj pilgrims climb Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat

Saudi Arabia barring Hajj pilgrims, Qatar says

The Kaaba represents the metaphorical house of God and the oneness of God.

"We will prevent any actions that are not part of the hajj ritual and any act that may impact the safety of pilgrims or their ability to perform the rite", Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Turki told Reuters. So Hajj doesn't happen at the same time each year; it moves back around 10 days every year on the Gregorian calendar.

Every day Muslims around the world orient themselves to pray towards this shrine, the Kaaba. During Hajj, pilgrims must walk around it seven times counterclockwise to ensure that the Kaaba remains on their left side.

When the pilgrim wakes for prayer time - five times daily in Islam - workers will sterilise the pod before handing it over to the next pilgrim. Many seek to deepen their faith on the hajj, with some women taking on the Islamic hair covering known as "hijab" upon returning. People who are older or have mobility issues may find it hard, so wheelchairs and motorized carts are now on-hand.

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An official at Saudi Arabia's Hajj ministry said a group of Qataris had already arrived for the pilgrimage, which will run from Sunday to Friday, 24 August, but he did not say how many there were or whether they had travelled directly from Qatar.

After spending the night in the massive valley of Mina, the pilgrims head to Mount Arafat, some 20km east of Mecca, for the pinnacle of the pilgrimage. This is where pilgrims ask Allah (God) for forgiveness for any past sins. It is also forbidden for pilgrims to argue, fight or lose their tempers during the hajj.

After sunset, pilgrims will head to Muzdalifah, half-way between Arafat and Mina, where they will stay at least until midnight. If a pilgrim doesn't perform the wuquf, their Hajj isn't valid.

Around 1,200 Qatari citizens are allowed to attend the pilgrimage under a quota system, but Qatari officials say it has become impossible to register for the annual religious event.

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In the city of Mina, pilgrims throw pebbles at three pillars called Jamarat. Those who can not afford the hajj are sometimes financed by charities or community leaders.

Muslims believe the hajj retraces the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as those of the prophets Ibrahim and Ismail Abraham and Ishmael in the Bible. Over 1.2 million pilgrims observed yesterday's prayers at the sacred mosque in Makkah under maximum high temperature of 45 degrees Celsius.

Men don seamless white clothes and women wear loose garments and must refrain from wearing make-up and jewellery. Dressing this way is meant to show that everyone is equal before Allah.

Qatar has accused Saudi Arabia of barring its citizens from performing this year's Hajj pilgrimage amid a year-long boycott of Doha by a Saudi-led bloc of four Arab nations. This is where the Prophet Muhammad is buried, in a big lovely mosque.

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Efforts to speak with the representative of the hajj commission in Makkah, Ahmad Muhazu, was unsuccessful, as he did not pick several calls to his telephone line, just as he did not respond to text messages.

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