This year's annual pilgrimage to Mecca by an estimated two million Moslems passed without incident on the weekend(18 & 19 October) despite fears that political activists intended using the Hajj festival for their own aims.
AV Arafat Mosque, crowds of pilgrims praying outside.
GV Night Shot. Pilgrims arriving by bus and on foot at Arafat Mosque. (5 SHOTS)
SV Pilgrims praying. (3 SHOTS)
SV Pilgrims collecting pebbles from ground as other pilgrims arrive by truck. (3 SHOTS)
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Background: This year's annual pilgrimage to Mecca by an estimated two million Moslems passed without incident on the weekend(18 & 19 October) despite fears that political activists intended using the Hajj festival for their own aims. On Saturday (18 October) the pilgrims gathered at the Mosque in Arafat for prayers.
SYNOPSIS: This year's Hajj marks the beginning of the fifteenth Islamic century and is said to be the biggest ever held. During the early hours of Saturday morning (18 October) the pilgrims, some in buses, others on foot, came here to the Mosque at Arafat. The Hajj is a celebration of the life and faith of Abraham who is revered as the first Moslem and "friend of God".
Each pilgrim adopts the Ihram consisting of two white cloths which signify the equality of all in the eyes of Allah. These pilgrims have come to the plains below Mount Arafat from Mina a city six miles (10 kilometres) away. They spend the day he in meditation until sunset. The return to Mina the following night is considered to be the climax of the pilgrimage. For a Moslem to take part in Hajj is to be purified. It is considered the duty of those with good health and enough money to make the pilgrimage once in their lifetime.
There were a few small brawls this year but no incidents requiring the intervention of the Civil Defence forces. The massive security this year reflected the shock which followed last year's attack on the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Religious fanatics controlled the Mosque for two weeks. Hundreds of people were killed or injured in bitter fighting to eject them. Sixty three people were later beheaded for their part in the raid.
Once the pilgrims have returned to Mina the day of the feast of sacrifice. He they are collecting pebbles to perform the rite of stoning the Devil. This symbolises God's command to sacrifice his son, Ismail. Once the Devil, represented by three pillars in the main street of Mina has been stoned there are three days of rejoicing.