MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Pilgrims flocked to Mecca’s Grand Mosque on Saturday to perform their final rites before heading to Mina in preparation for the Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam and one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.
Tawaf, the marble circle surrounding the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure covered in black, gold embroidery, moved across the white marble squares.
People on the ground closest to the Kaaba were swayed by the number of participants. Those on the upper floors were able to walk and run faster. Pilgrims raised their arms and took a selfie or video to call their relatives.
Then they walked or ran between two hills. Hagar’s search for water for her son Ishmael is a story that occurs in different forms in Muslim, Christian, and Jewish traditions.
Pilgrims must enter a state of spiritual purity known as Ihram for Hajj.
Men wear uncut white clothes, a rule intended to bring unity between the rich and the poor. Women cover their body and hair.
Between the rituals and the five prayers that quieten the area, worshipers flock to the many shops and air-conditioned centers that surround the Grand Mosque in search of shade, snacks and to relax before the hectic days ahead.
Saudi Arabia has restored the full Hajj capacity for this year’s Hajj following a three-year decline in numbers due to the pandemic, and more than 2 million Muslims are expected to participate.
“I think this year’s crowd is huge,” said Mahbub Morshed, a 42-year-old software engineer from Bangladesh, noting the thin turnout of previous years. But the government and this administration (Ministry of Hajj and Umrah) are trying to manage this smoothly.