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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Millions of Muslims gather in the Saudi city of Mecca to perform the Hajj

Millions of pilgrims have arrived in Mecca for Islam's annual Hajj pilgrimage with Saudi authorities warning they will stop any disruptive protests over the conflict in Syria. The Grand Mosque, the focal point of the Islamic faith, was already teeming with joyful pilgrims at dawn on Monday, wearing the simple white folds of cloth prescribed for hajj, many of them having slept on the white marble paving outside.

Hajj must be performed at least once in their lifetime by all Muslims capable of making the expensive, difficult journey, a duty that applies equally to Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims at a time of tension between Islam's main sects.


More than 2,400 pilgrims were crushed to death in 2015, and some fear a repeat despite fresh security measures for the hajj, which begins on Friday and lasts five days. More than 27,000 security personnel will be deployed around the holy sites at Mecca and Medina.

A huge increase in international pilgrims over recent decades has increased pressure on the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, and the infrastructure needed to cope with a massive influx of people.




Pilgrims are required to travel in organised groups, and a Saudi official has said that those caught trying to enter the holy sites without a permit will be tried and sentenced within 24 hours.

“Verdicts of imprisonment and fines against illegal pilgrims will be issued within 24 hours,” said Muhammad al-Anzi, the director of the department of expatriates in the directorate general of prisons, Al Arabiya reported

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