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From Minsk To Mecca

A group of Muslims left Belarus on August 23 to take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. For the first time, Saudi officials are requiring that a single tour operator organize pilgrims from each country. Forty-four pilgrims are traveling under the auspices of the Muslim Religious Association of Belarus -- the largest-ever delegation from the country to take part in the hajj. Before departing, the pilgrims gathered to pray at a mosque in Minsk.


A pilgrim prays before flying from Minsk to Medina by way of Istanbul. Most of the pilgrims from Belarus are taking part in the hajj for the first time.   
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A pilgrim prays before flying from Minsk to Medina by way of Istanbul. Most of the pilgrims from Belarus are taking part in the hajj for the first time. 

 

Pilgrims gathered to learn the rituals of the hajj before leaving their home country.
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Pilgrims gathered to learn the rituals of the hajj before leaving their home country.

The group includes foreigners residing in Belarus, where Muslims form a small minority.
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The group includes foreigners residing in Belarus, where Muslims form a small minority.

Ten women are among the 44 pilgrims. In some traditions, women are required to be accompanied by their husband or a male relative on the hajj.
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Ten women are among the 44 pilgrims. In some traditions, women are required to be accompanied by their husband or a male relative on the hajj.

Merzak (center), an Algerian resident of Minsk, is going on the hajj for the second time.
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Merzak (center), an Algerian resident of Minsk, is going on the hajj for the second time.

Before departing, Merzak is dressed for the hajj in sandals and ihram, loosely draped pieces of white fabric.
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Before departing, Merzak is dressed for the hajj in sandals and ihram, loosely draped pieces of white fabric.

The mufti of Belarus, Abu-Bekir Shabanovich, sees the pilgrims off on their journey. 
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The mufti of Belarus, Abu-Bekir Shabanovich, sees the pilgrims off on their journey. 

A man carries a Belarusian flag, which might help the delegation find one another among the crowds. Nearly 2 million Muslims will take part in the hajj.
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A man carries a Belarusian flag, which might help the delegation find one another among the crowds. Nearly 2 million Muslims will take part in the hajj.

The Belarusian delegation will return on September 7.
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The Belarusian delegation will return on September 7.

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