MINA: They began walking before dawn, hundreds of thousands of men and women, clad in white robes to signify a state of purity.
Their destination was Jamarat Al-Aqaba, and a three-story bridge from where they each threw seven pebbles at a pillar to symbolize the stoning of the devil — the last major ritual of the Hajj pilgrimage, heralding the start of Eid Al-Adha.
Large fans sprayed water over the crowds as temperatures soared. “It is hot, I drink a lot of water,” said Jaker Akjar, 48, a pilgrim from India on his first Hajj.
Over the next two days nearly 2.5 million pilgrims will complete the stoning ritual — 1.85 million from more than 160 countries, and a further 634,000 from inside Saudi Arabia. They will then return to Makkah, where they will pray at the Grand Mosque and circle the Kaaba seven times anti-clockwise.
Among them will be Islam Ali, a student, who traveled from Sudan. “I am really looking forward to seeing the Kaaba again,” she told Arab News. “It is, of course, the most amazing experience. I’m impressed by how organized it is in Makkah, despite the number of people — the officials have done a great job.”
Hassan Mustapha Ali, a pharmacist from Jordan, said: “It’s my first time and it’s been amazing. We used to watch Hajj on TV so it’s an incredible feeling to have the opportunity to fulfil this Islamic obligation.”
Throughout Hajj, members of Saudi Arabia’s security forces and civil defense volunteers have been working to ensure the safety of the pilgrims throughout the holy sites. They hand out water, act as quick-response teams helping those who struggle with the walking and heat, and they guide pilgrims — ensuring the safe flow of people through the crowded spaces, many of which are narrow pedestrian roads.
“It’s been great, Civil Defense volunteer Essam Al-Moalami told Arab News. “I feel so proud to help these people and to serve my country. It’s the second year in row that I have done this and I hope to do it next year too.”
King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received well-wishers on Sunday afternoon at a palace gathering attended by royals, clerics, military leaders, ministers and distinguished guests to mark the first day of Eid Al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice.
Saudi Arabia had “fulfilled its duty for the sake of Allah and welcomed the guests of Allah without exception, and provided them with all the services needed to perform their Hajj rituals with ease, comfort, security and tranquillity,” the king said in a televised speech.