Around two million white-clad Muslims pilgrims on Wednesday began arriving at Mount Arafat, located roughly 20 kilometers east of Makkah, to perform one of the most important parts of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, where Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) is believed to have given his final sermon.
Pilgrims will mark what is known as the “Day of Arafah” by performing prayers until sunset and asking God to forgive their sins.
This is done on Mount Arafat, Prophet of Islam Hazarat Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) gave his final sermon 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on the ninth day of the month of Dhul Hijja, according to the lunar-based Muslim calendar.
The Day of Arafah is also significant for Muslims who are not on pilgrimage, many of whom choose to fast on the holy day.
Authorities in Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, are providing security and medical facilities to pilgrims making the journey to the sacred site.
On Thursday, following the Day of Arafah, Muslims will begin celebrating the four-day Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of the Sacrifice”.
Many of the faithful from around the globe camped at the foot of Mount Arafat where they slept, exhausted from their journey, and prayed despite the scorching sun, World bulletin reported.
Prophet of Islam Hazarat Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) gave his final sermon 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on hajj.
Along the way, volunteers handed out boxes of food and cold water bottles.
For many pilgrims, hajj is the spiritual highlight of their lives.
Throughout the day, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims scaled the hill and prayed facing the Kaaba, in Mecca Mukkrama that observant Muslims around the world face in prayer five times a day.
In the same day, pilgrims replaced the covering of the Kaaba with a new one, a custom done every year during pilgrimage, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
Pilgrims arrived from nearby Mina by bus and using the elevated Mashair Railway linking the holy sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, a tent city where many pilgrims spent Tuesday night.
This year's gathering is about the same size as last year's, with 1.4 million foreign pilgrims joining hundreds of thousands of Saudis and residents of the kingdom.
The hajj is among the five pillars of Islam and every capable Muslim must perform it at least once in a lifetime.
About 100,000 police have been deployed to secure pilgrimage sites and manage the crowds.
The health ministry has mobilised thousands of medical workers to help ensure a virus-free pilgrimage and to care for routine ailments.
Pilgrims began the hajj on Tuesday by entering ihram, a state of purity in which they must not quarrel, wear perfume, or cut their nails or hair.
During ihram, men wear a seamless two-piece shroud-like white garment, while women must wear loose dresses, generally also white, exposing only their faces and hands.
The clothing emphasises their unity, regardless of whether they spend the hajj in Mecca's five-star hotels or in shabby highrise hostels.
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