Hajj Pilgrims Converge On Mount Arafat
The holy city of Mecca hosts what is the largest mass gathering in the world every year, as millions of Muslim pilgrims converge on the Grand Mosque to take part in one of the five pillars of Islam.
Many Muslims arrive at King Abdulaziz International Airport at the Red Sea port city of Jeddah as believers from all over the world begin to arrive in Saudi Arabia. (AFP PHOTO/AMER HILABI)
Muslim pilgrims await prayers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, with their ranks swelled ahead of the official start of the hajj. (AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE)
Pilgrims perform what's known as "tawaf al qudum," circling the Kaaba -- the holiest site in Islam.
The Kaaba is circled seven times in what's known as "tawaf al qudum."
Pilgrims leave the area of the Grand Mosque, seen in the background, following evening prayers during the hajj. (AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE)
Pilgrims like Bosnian pilgrim Senad Hadzic, who began his nearly 6,000-kilometer march to Mecca in December, arrive from all over the world for the event. (AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE)
Pilgrims perform the noon prayer outside the Namera mosque in the plain of Arafat on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca during the 2012 hajj.
Pilgrims from abroad are regulated by quotas issued by the Saudi government. Here, Kyrgyz nationals use temporary facilities set up specifically for hajj pilgrims in Mecca. (Photo courtesy of Myktybek Arstanbek)
Muslim pilgrims perform the evening prayer near the Grand Mosque. (AFP PHOTO/MUSTAFA OZER)
Near the culmination of the hajj, pilgrims spend a day in supplication on the Plain of Arafat. Here, a Saudi police officer wearing a surgical mask during the flu-affected hajj of 2009 helps direct foot traffic. In 2013, deaths blamed on the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus were expected to reduce the number of participants.
After a day of supplication, the pilgrims arrive at Mount Arafat, southeast of Mecca.
Pilgrims then spend a night at Mount Arafat. (AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS)
In addition to prayer, one of the things that pilgrims do on Mount Arafat is to collect pebbles for a ritual the following day, at Jamaraat. (PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS)
Pilgrims arrive to throw pebbles at pillars during the Jamarat ritual in Mina near the holy city of Mecca, during the 2012 hajj.
Seven pebbles are to be cast at any of three pillars during the ritual known as the stoning of the devil, in Mina near Mecca. (AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS)
The Jamarat ritual represents the stoning of Satan.
The pelting with pebbles, which results in some of the densest crowds of the hajj, symbolizes defiance of evil. (AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS)
A barber in Mina shaves the head of a pilgrim after the stoning of Satan ritual. (AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMS)
PHOTO GALLERY: Muslim pilgrims travel to Saudi Arabia from all over the world for one of the five pillars of Islam, the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Millions participate in the annual rites, which always take place during the last month of the Islamic calendar year.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims have gathered at Mount Arafat after dawn on October 14 to perform prayers as part of the hajj pilgrimage.
Saudi officials predicted an estimated 1.5 million pilgrims would converge on the site.
That number is down sharply from last year's 3.2 million after Saudi authorities slashed hajj quotas because of massive construction works at the Mecca Grand Mosque.
Fears linked to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus were another reason behind the reduced number of pilgrims. The disease has killed some 60 people worldwide, most of them in Saudi Arabia.
The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam that every capable Muslim must perform.
This year's hajj will officially end on October 18.
Saudi Arabia has deployed more than 100,000 troops to ensure the safety of the pilgrims.
Based on reporting by AFP and AP