Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Today: Climax of the Hajj

Muslim pilgrims have poured onto Mount Arafat east of Mecca to mark the climax of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. They came on foot, by bus and in pick-up trucks from Mina and other sites in the direction of Mecca on Tuesday, adding to a throng which will reach more than two million by afternoon.

Saudi Arabian authorities say more than 1.6 million people from 181 different countries have entered the country for the event, largest annual religious gathering in the world. Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, the Saudi interior minister, said the figure was a three per cent increase on last year. He said that several hundred thousand residents of the kingdom, both Saudi and expatriate, were also taking part.

Some of the pilgrims spent the night on Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or the Mountain of Mercy. The faithful will spend the day praying and asking for God's forgiveness at the summit, in a symbolic waiting for the last judgment.

A sea of people wrapped in white cloth streamed along six-lane roads to fill the plain, carrying mats, food, screens against the sun, Qurans and prayer books. The afternoon at Arafat, known in Arabic as the wuqouf or "standing", is an essential part of the pilgrimage. The noon prayer and sermon at the Namera Mosque is a major event, evoking the sermon which the Prophet Muhammad made from the hill in the year of his death in 632.

[Source: Al-Jazeera]

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