Millions of Muslims begin their annual hajj

Millions of Muslims begin their annual hajj

Wearing white robes to symbolize purity and equality under God, millions of Muslims began Saturday their annual hajj pilgrimage by climbing a rocky desert hill outside Mecca.

Vast crowds of pilgrims started at dawn to ascend the Mountain of Mercy at Arafat, 12 miles (19 kilometers) outside Mecca, where Islam's Prophet Muhammad is said to have delivered his farewell sermon.

The ascent of Arafat is the first event associated with the five-day hajj. Saudi authorities say that an estimated 2.5 million pilgrims are expected to participate.

"I'm very happy today. I can't express my feelings," said Badr Olgach, a 41-year old construction contractor from Turkey. "I wish and pray for the best, for all the Prophet Muhammad's followers in the world," said the father of two.

Since late Friday, pilgrims assembled around the mountain have been praying and reading Islam's holy book, the Quran. While many were sleeping in tent compounds, others were setting up their small tents on sidewalks and streets.

This year's hajj takes place amid an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests in the Arab world that has toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Uprisings have also shaken regimes in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.

Updated : 2021-02-26 16:09 GMT+08:00