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‘Largest Hajj pilgrimage in history’ begins in Saudi Arabia

The number of pilgrims this year is expected to break records at more than 2.5 million.

Crowds of Muslims wearing white robes circle the Kaaba, the cube-shaped building at the center of Islam’s holiest site, as their prayers fill the air, signaling the start of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The tawaf, or circling of the Kaaba, which marks the start of the yearly pilgrimage, took place on Sunday in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Due to the complete relaxation of coronavirus pandemic limitations that have been in force since 2020, more than 2.5 million Muslims are anticipated to participate.

In that year, only 10,000 participants were allowed; in 2021, 59,000; and in 2018, a maximum of one million participants.

“I am living the most beautiful days of my life,” 65-year-old Egyptian Abdelazim told the AFP news agency while he was there. Abdelazim had saved up for the $6000 cost of the event for 20 years.

The pilgrims will start traveling to Mina on Sunday evening, around 8 kilometers (5 miles) from al-Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, in Mecca. From there, they will congregate at Mount Arafat, where Prophet Muhammad is thought to have given his last sermon.

Food supplies have been brought in and security personnel have been placed in Mina in preparation for the pilgrims.

It is intended that the mentally and emotionally taxing event will purge followers of sin and draw them nearer to God.

This year, the Hajj is performed between June 26 and July 1, with Eid al-Adha being observed on June 28.

Even though it is an expensive ceremony, the Hajj pilgrimage frequently gives people hope, especially those who come from nations that are plagued by conflict, poverty, or occupation. To be able to afford it, many people fork over years of their meager savings.

Last week, four pilgrimage groups departed from Gaza. In the meantime, a steady stream of pilgrims from northwest Syria crossed into Turkey at border points. Additionally, Yemenis travelled to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage on the first direct trip since 2016.

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