Over 2 Million Expected as Hajj Pilgrimage Begins in Mecca

Over 2 Million Expected as Hajj Pilgrimage Begins in Mecca

  • Muslim pilgrims in Makkah have officially commenced the annual Hajj pilgrimage, with over 1.5 million already present and the number expected to exceed 2 million
  • This year's Hajj occurs amid the Gaza conflict, preventing Palestinians from Gaza from attending
  • For the first time in over a decade, Syrian pilgrims travelled directly from Damascus, reflecting improved Saudi-Syrian relations

In the searing heat of Mecca, Muslim pilgrims converged on a vast tent camp in the desert on Friday, officially opening the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Ahead of their trip, they circled the cube-shaped Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site.

More than 1.5 million pilgrims from around the world have already arrived, with Saudi authorities expecting the number to exceed 2 million.

Masjid-l-Haram, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
A few Nigerians have died in Makkah this year, some by self-imposed, and others of natural causes. Image: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

This year’s Hajj takes place against the backdrop of the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Palestinian militants, pushing the Middle East towards potential regional conflict.

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Palestinians from Gaza were unable to travel to Mecca due to the closure of the Rafah crossing, but 4,200 pilgrims from the West Bank and 1,000 invitees from families affected by the Gaza conflict did make the journey, thanks to an invitation from King Salman of Saudi Arabia.

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Historic moments for Syrians

Notably, this year's Hajj also saw Syrian pilgrims travelling directly from Damascus for the first time in over a decade, a sign of improving relations between Saudi Arabia and Syria.

This change alleviates the arduous journey previously undertaken by Syrians from rebel-held areas through Turkey.

The pilgrimage, one of Islam's five pillars, is a profound spiritual experience for Muslims. It symbolises absolution of sins and unity among the global Muslim community.

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Pilgrims perform rituals that commemorate Quranic accounts of Prophet Ibrahim, his son Prophet Ismail, and Ismail’s mother, Hajar.

Saudi authorities have implemented strict security measures to ensure the safety of the pilgrims, with checkpoints on roads to prevent unauthorised access.

Lt. Gen. Muhammad al-Bassami, head of the Hajj Security Committee, reported that many without Hajj permits were detained and expelled.

Hajj exercises physically demanding

The Hajj rituals, mostly conducted outdoors, are particularly challenging this year due to extreme heat, with temperatures potentially reaching 48 Celsius (118 Fahrenheit).

Pilgrims carried umbrellas for shade as they made their way to Mina, marking the official start of the Hajj. On Saturday, they will continue to Mount Arafat for a daylong vigil, followed by a symbolic stoning of the devil in Mina and the Eid al-Adha holiday celebrations.

Afterwards, pilgrims return to Mecca for the final circumambulation, known as Farewell Tawaf.

The pilgrimage has regained its monumental scale post-pandemic, with last year seeing over 1.8 million participants. This year’s numbers are expected to rival pre-pandemic levels, reflecting the enduring significance of Hajj for Muslims worldwide.

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Two Kwara Pilgrims Die in Saudi Arabia

Earlier, Legit.ng reported that tragedy had struck the Kwara state pilgrimage contingent once again as two more pilgrims had reportedly passed away while on the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

This brings the total number of deaths among the Kwara pilgrims to four.

Source: Legit.ng

Ibrahim Sofiyullaha avatar

Ibrahim Sofiyullaha (Editorial Assistant) Editorial Assistant at Legit.ng specialising in covering politics and current affairs news. Email: ibrahim.sofiyullaha@corp.legit.ng