Two million Muslims begin hajj pilgrimage
SEE ALSO :DPP’s new tack to build tight NYS caseEvery Muslim is required to complete the hajj journey to Islam's holiest sites at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy enough and have the means to do so. Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed for the pilgrimage, which was struck by its worst ever disaster three years ago when around 2,300 worshippers were crushed to death in a stampede. This year, the Saudis have launched a 'smart hajj initiative, with apps to help pilgrims with everything from travel plans to medical care. The interior ministry said on Saturday that the number of pilgrims arriving in Mecca had already surpassed the two million mark, mostly from abroad including large contingents from Egypt, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Wearing the simple white garb of the pilgrim, most of the faithful began moving on Sunday from Mecca to the nearby Mina valley. They will spend the night there in fire-resistant tents in the desert, where temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Thousands of buses and vehicles carrying the pilgrims lined the eight kilometre (five-mile) road from Mecca to Mina. Many pilgrims made the journey walking under the scorching sun. For the Muslim faithful, hajj retraces the last steps of the Prophet Mohammed and also honours the prophets Abraham and Ishmael. It ends with the Eid al-Adha feast, which is marked by the slaughter of sheep, a tribute to Abraham's sacrifice of a lamb after God spared Ishmael, his son. Earlier in Mecca pilgrims performed a ritual walk seven times around the Kaaba, a black masonry cube wrapped in a silk cloth embroidered in gold with Koranic verses at the centre of the Grand Mosque. The shrine is the point towards which Muslims around the world pray. On Monday, pilgrims will climb Mount Arafat for the climax of the hajj, praying and reading the Koran.