First day of annual hajj pilgrimage in Makkah

JEDDAH: More than 2 million Muslims began the annual hajj pilgrimage at first light Sunday in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest annual gatherings.

Muslims from around the globe throngs of the faithful circled the cube-shaped Kaaba, one of the Islam’s holiest sites.

Wearing the simple white garb of the pilgrim, most of the faithful began moving on Sunday from Makkah to the nearby Mina valley to perform the main ritual of Hajj on Monday.

They will spend the night there in fire-resistant tents in the desert, where temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Every Muslim is required to complete the hajj journey to Islam’s holiest sites at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy enough and have the means to do so.

Hajj retraces the last steps of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and also honours the prophets, Abraham (AS) and Ishmael (AS).

It ends with the Eid al-Adha feast, which is marked by the slaughter of sheep, a tribute to Abraham’s sacrifice of a lamb after God spared Ishmael, his son.

Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed for the pilgrimage, which was struck by its worst-ever disaster three years ago when around 2,300 worshippers were crushed to death in a stampede.