2 million Muslim hajj pilgrims ascend Mount Arafat

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The five-day hajj pilgrimage is required of all Muslims once in their lifetime, if they are financially and physically able to make the demanding pilgrimage.

Pilgrims shave their heads upon leaving Muzdalifah after throwing pebbles as part on the symbolic al-Aqabah (stoning of the devil ritual) at the Jamarat Bridge during the Hajj pilgrimage in Mina, near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, yesterday.

News of her death threw the Lagos State pilgrims at their No 526 quarter in Mina into mourning after the state's Amir Hajj, Abdul Lateef Abdul Hakeem, confirmed her death during the afternoon prayer.

"We feel cleansed by achieving this pillar of Islam and meeting people from across the world".

He said the problem of stranded intending pilgrims can therefore be traced to the tour operators who had been given a fraction of about 20,000, out of which 19,780 or thereabout registered, but which ran into a hitch.

‏On seeing the Kaaba for the first time, he said: "I burst into tears when I saw the Kaaba".

"It's a golden opportunity and moment", said his female companion.

Makkah, built in a desert valley, is home to the Kaaba, a cube structure that is the focal point of Islam and draped in a gold-embroidered black cloth.

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It was gathered also that the temperature in Makkah and other cities rose to 40 degree Celsius at day time. Several hundred thousand more pilgrims are Saudi residents or citizens.

"The whole world is here... being here in Mecca is the best feeling", beamed Mohamed Barry, a pilgrim from Britain.

Radio Pakistan reported that over 1.8 million Muslims have arrived in Makkah to perform Hajj. - AFP Pilgrims pray at Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy).

That marks the beginning of Eidul Adha, the festival of sacrifice, marked on Sunday in Saudi Arabia. The rituals include circling the Kaaba or the monotheistic house of worship located in the center of Grand Mosque.

It should be noted that Arafat is the place where pilgrims gathered to seek for forgiveness, a very important rite of hajj exercise. Iranians are attending this year as Riyadh and Tehran continue to struggle for regional supremacy.

This year, more than 1.8 million people from more than 160 countries came to Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj, according to Saudi officials. However, this year the Saudi Ministry of Hajj is working to prevent any further stampeding incidents.

Begining Hajj pilgrimage, Muslims wear Ihram, two white seamless clothes for the male and normal dress for females. The kingdom stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam's holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, and organising the world's largest annual Muslim gathering.

Addressing reporters at the tent city of Mina, Saudi Arabia, Friday evening, NAHCON's acting commissioner of operations, Abdullahi Saleh, assured that the commission will ensure sanction against the defaulting tour operators. It has deployed tens of thousands of security forces and medics and is also using modern technology including surveillance drones to maintain order.