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Saudi Arabia prepares for the annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage

Muslim pilgrims circle around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca...
A Muslim pilgrim, only hands seen, prays near the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim ho...
Muslim pilgrims touch the Kaaba stone, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, as they pray ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy cit...
Muslim pilgrims touch the Kaaba stone, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, as they pray ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy cit...
Muslim pilgrims touch the golden door of the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, as they pray ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Mu...
Muslim pilgrims pray inside the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Aug. 17, 201...
A Muslim pilgrim takes a photograph of his relative near the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Ar...
Muslim pilgrims circle around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca...
Muslim women pilgrims pose for photographs for their relative near the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca...
Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi...
Muslim pilgrims leave Grand Mosque, after offering Friday prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia,...
Muslim pilgrims walks on a road outside Grand Mosque, after offering Friday prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Me...
Muslim pilgrims leave Grand Mosque, after offering Friday prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia,...
Muslim pilgrims leave Grand Mosque, after offering Friday prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia,...
Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. T...
Large cooling fans spray water on Muslim pilgrims around the Grand Mosque ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi ...
Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arab...
The sun sets over the city of Mecca as Muslim pilgrims wait to offer evening prayers inside the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in ...
Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. T...
Muslim pilgrims rest inside the Grand Mosque, after offering Friday prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Sau...

Muslim pilgrims circle around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca...

A Muslim pilgrim, only hands seen, prays near the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim ho...

Muslim pilgrims touch the Kaaba stone, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, as they pray ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy cit...

Muslim pilgrims touch the Kaaba stone, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, as they pray ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy cit...

Muslim pilgrims touch the golden door of the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, as they pray ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Mu...

Muslim pilgrims pray inside the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Aug. 17, 201...

A Muslim pilgrim takes a photograph of his relative near the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Ar...

Muslim pilgrims circle around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca...

Muslim women pilgrims pose for photographs for their relative near the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca...

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi...

Muslim pilgrims leave Grand Mosque, after offering Friday prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia,...

Muslim pilgrims walks on a road outside Grand Mosque, after offering Friday prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Me...

Muslim pilgrims leave Grand Mosque, after offering Friday prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia,...

Muslim pilgrims leave Grand Mosque, after offering Friday prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia,...

Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. T...

Large cooling fans spray water on Muslim pilgrims around the Grand Mosque ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi ...

Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arab...

The sun sets over the city of Mecca as Muslim pilgrims wait to offer evening prayers inside the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in ...

Muslim pilgrims pray at the Grand Mosque, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018. T...

Muslim pilgrims rest inside the Grand Mosque, after offering Friday prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Sau...

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia is preparing to host the annual hajj pilgrimage beginning Sunday, as over 1.6 million Muslim faithful from abroad have arrived in the ultraconservative kingdom.

The pilgrimage represents one of the five pillars of Islam and is required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life. In recent weeks, the faithful have arrived in Mecca from across the world, all chanting "Labayk Allahuma Labayk," or "Here I am, God, answering your call. Here I am."

The hajj offers pilgrims an opportunity to feel closer to God amid the Muslim world's many challenges, including the threat of extremists in the Mideast after the Islamic State group was beaten back in Iraq and Syria and the plight of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya minority.