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PHOTOS: Haj, the pilgrimage of a lifetime

October 15, 2013 09:19 IST

Haj, the pilgrimage of a lifetime

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Tens of thousands of white-clad pilgrims, including Indians, thronged Mount Arafat in Saudi Arabia just outside Mecca, for the climax of the Hajj.

Chanting “Labaik Allahum Labaik” (I am responding to your call, God), many of the pilgrims camped in tents as temperatures soared to around 40 degrees Celsius. Special sprinklers were set up for the pilgrims.

In his annual sermon, top Saudi cleric Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh urged Muslims to avoid divisions, chaos and sectarianism, without explicitly speaking of the turmoil unleashed by the Arab Spring, AFP reported.

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Image: A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Thor in the holy city of Mecca ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage. Mount Thor marks the start of the journey of the Prophet Mohammad and his companion Abu Bakr Al-Sadeeq from Mecca to Medina. It houses Thor cave where Prophet Mohammed is believed hid from the people of Quraish before his Hijra (migration) to Medina.
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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"Your nation is a trust with you. You must safeguard its security, stability and resources," the cleric, who heads Saudi Arabia's highest religious body, said in an address to the Muslim world.

"You should know that you are targeted by your enemy... who wants to spread chaos among you ... It's time to confront this."

The Governor of Mecca province and head of the central hajj committee Prince Khaled al-Faisal said 1.38 million pilgrims had arrived from outside of the kingdom while only 117,000 hajj permits were issued for domestic pilgrims.

This puts the total number of pilgrims this year at almost 1.5 million, less than half of last year's 3.2 million, after Riyadh slashed hajj quotas, AFP reported.

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Image: Muslim pilgrims attend Friday prayers at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage.
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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Pilgrims left for the tent city of Mina on Sunday after circumambulating the Holy Kaaba in Mecca, where the grand mosque was packed with believers from across the world.

In the first phase, the pilgrims will spend the night in Mina reciting the Holy Quran or catching up on sleep.

The pilgrims this year include more than 136,000 Indians who moved into Mina in groups.

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Image: Muslim pilgrims pray atop Mount Thor in the holy city of Mecca ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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This year, Minister for Health & Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia Hamid Ali Rao form the country's two-member Haj goodwill delegation.

Security has been tightened in and around Mecca, where helicopters hovered overhead, giving instructions to security officials on the ground.

The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam that should be performed at least once in lifetime by every Muslim who is financially and physically capable. This year, the pilgrimage started on Sunday and ends on October 18.

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Image: Muslim pilgrims gather atop Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat during the peak of the annual haj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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Azad expressed satisfaction over the facilities and services being arranged for the Indian pilgrims. He visited several buildings where Indian pilgrims are staying in order to oversee the arrangements, the Saudi Gazette reported.

He also paid a visit to pilgrims admitted to the 50-bed hospital in Jarwal and 30-bed hospital in Aziziyah, as well as those receiving treatment from outpatient clinics.

Addressing a press conference in Mecca later, he said the government will try to find a solution to three major problems raised by the pilgrims during an interaction with them.

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Image: Muslim pilgrims pray atop Mount Thor in the holy city of Mecca
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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"Our pilgrims are generally happy with the facilities and services. It was nice to meet and see that our oldest pilgrim Ismail, aged 107, and Hava Beevi, aged 102, who was accompanied by her grandson, are keeping fine," he said.

Indian Hajj Mission has opened its offices in Mecca which will function round the clock. Medical dispensaries have been established and equipped with medicines and other supplies. Fully equipped ambulances have also been deployed.

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Image: A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat during the peak of the annual haj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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A total of 546 personnel have been deputed from India for this year's Hajj. They include six coordinators, 54 assistant Hajj officers, 191 Hajj assistants and 295 medical workers, according to Saudi Gazette.

Last year a total of 3.2 million faithful, including 1.75 million foreigners from 190 countries, performed the pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam's holiest site. 

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Image: A Muslim pilgrim touches the rocks atop Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat during the peak of the annual haj pilgrimage
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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Azad said that most important among the problems raised by the pilgrims was the insufficient number of toilets at their accommodation.

"At present, 12 pilgrims are using one toilet and we will examine the matter and consider introducing one toilet for every six pilgrim," he was quoted as saying by the paper.

Azad said that steps would be taken to introduce common kitchen system for pilgrims residing in two or more buildings.

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Image: Muslim pilgrims touch the rocks atop Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat during the peak of the annual haj pilgrimage
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters
Tags: PHOTOS , Haj

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The minister said the authorities would also examine the suggestion to follow the pattern of sending Zamzam water in the case of dispatching dates for pilgrims.

The pilgrimage ends after Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, which starts on Tuesday.

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Image: A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat during the peak of the annual haj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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Haj, the pilgrimage of a lifetime

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This year Saudi expects about two million pilgrims, after it imposed restrictions to cut foreigners by 20 per cent and Saudis by 50 per cent.

Saudi authorities have mobilised health services, fearing the spread of the MERS virus, which appeared first in the kingdom last year. The virus has killed 58 people worldwide, 49 of them in Saudi Arabia. 

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Image: Muslim pilgrims touch the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca
Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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Haj, the pilgrimage of a lifetime

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A Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Thor in the holy city of Mecca ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage.

Mount Thor marks the start of the journey of the Prophet Mohammad and his companion Abu Bakr Al-Sadeeq from Mecca to Medina. It houses Thor cave where Prophet Mohammed is believed hid from the people of Quraish before his Hijra (migration) to Medina. 

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Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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A Muslim pilgrim prays at Mount Al-Noor ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca.

Mount Al-Noor houses Ghar-E-Hira or Hira cave, where Prophet Mohammad is said to have spent a great deal of time in the cave meditating and it is believed that he had received his first revelation inside this cave.  

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Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca, ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage.

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Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters
Tags: PHOTOS , Mecca

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Members of Saudi security forces secure the area as Muslim pilgrims wait to enter the Grand mosque during Friday prayers in the holy city of Mecca.

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Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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Muslim pilgrims ascend Mount Al-Noor ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca. 


Photographs: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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