MOUNT ARAFAT – Muslim pilgrims on Monday began ascending Mount Arafat for the climax of the annual hajj which brings together more than two million people from around the world.
A sea of worshippers scaled the rocky hill southeast of the holy city of Mecca for a day of prayers and reflection where Muslims believe Prophet Mohammed delivered his final sermon.
Some of the pilgrims, men in white seamless garments and women in loose dresses, pushed elderly relatives in wheelchairs on the second day of the hajj, one of the world’s largest annual gatherings.
A hot wind blew across the hill, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy), and the surrounding plain after a downpour late Sunday. Many faithful could be seen sipping from bottles of water.
After sunset, the pilgrims will leave for nearby Muzdalifah where they will gather pebbles to perform the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.
The ritual begins in earnest on Tuesday as Muslims observe the first day of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, which marks the end of the hajj.
Muslims traditionally slaughter sheep for the three-day Eid al-Adha, a tribute to the prophet Abraham’s sacrifice of a lamb after God spared Ishmael, his son.
They will consume some of the meat and give the rest to poor people unable to buy food.
The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam which every Muslim is required to complete at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy enough and have the means to do so.