Moslem pilgrims trekked to Mecca in record numbers this year, according to figures released recently in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh.
Various establishing shots of Mecca; stages of the pilgrim's ritual (NATURAL SOUND THROUGHOUT).
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Background: Moslem pilgrims trekked to Mecca in record numbers this year, according to figures released recently in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh. A total of 316,000 foreign pilgrims made their way to the birthplace of Mohammad - an increase of 22,000 over last year. No figures for Saudi pilgrims were released.
The yearly pilgrimage to Mecca, on the edge of the Red Sea, is a ritual which is said to have begun more than thirteen centuries ago when Mohammad, regarded by Moslems as the greatest prophet of Allah, returned there from exile on a pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage beings with prayer as the faithful from many parts of the world gather on the plain of Arafat, regarded by Moslems as the meeting place of Adam and Eve. After the gathering, a four day religious feast begins.
An important part of the ritual is the kissing of the Black Stone and the circumambulation of the Ka'ba. The Ka'ba, standing within the walls of the Great Mosque of Mecca is traditionally regarded by the faithful as a replica of God's heavenly dwelling, and said to have been built by Abraham at the command of Allah.
Those who succeed in kissing the Black Stone in the base of the Ka'ba are said to have received the gift of "Heavenly Delight". Pilgrims are required to walk seven times around the Ka'ba - three times in a leaping gait.