Muslim pilgrims threw pebbles at the “Devil’s Stone” ritual, which marks the beginning of Saturday’s Eid al-Adha holiday. This year’s expanded Mecca pilgrimage has come to an end.

From the first light, a small group of worshipers threw stones across the valley of Mina near Mecca in western Saudi Arabia on three concrete walls representing Satan.

The ritual is an emulation of Abraham’s demon stones in three places where Satan is said to have tried to discourage him from obeying God’s command to sacrifice his son Ishmael.

With millions of participants gathering in a small space, the stoning ritual has led to deadly stampede in the last few years.

Pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the largest annual religious gatherings in the world, is usually one of the five pillars of Islam and must be done by all Muslims at least once.

In 2019, about 2.5 million Muslims from all over the world participated.

However, as the Kingdom sought to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, that number dropped to thousands in 2020 and 60,000 in 2021.
This year, the participation of one million fully vaccinated worshipers was restricted. Officials said Friday that nearly 900,000 people attended, of which about 780,000 were from abroad.
Hosting a pilgrimage is a matter of fame and a powerful source of political legitimacy for the rulers of Saudi Arabia, the maintainers of Islam’s most holy places.

Banning foreign pilgrims for the past two years has caused deep disappointment among Muslims around the world. They usually save years to participate.

The Mecca pilgrimage, which costs at least $ 5,000 per person, and the Umrah pilgrimage, which takes place at other times of the year, are the main drivers of Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector.

Normally, they generate about $ 12 billion a year and are energizing Mecca’s economy.

Virus and fever

After the stoning ritual, the pilgrims return to the Grand Mosque in Mecca to perform the final “tawafu” or turn of the Kaaba, the cubic structure that is the focus of Islam.

Eid al-Adha, a sacrificial feast that begins on Saturday, marks the end of the Mecca pilgrimage.
Muslims around the world buy livestock for the slaughter to commemorate Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son to show obedience to Allah.

On Friday, a large crowd of Robe-clad Islamic pilgrims prayed at Mount Arafat, the climax of the annual pilgrimage.

Many groups of worshipers, holding an umbrella against the fierce sun, quoted a poem from the Koran in a rocky rise believed to have given the Prophet Mohammed his last sermon.

After sunset, they traveled a short distance to Muzdalifah, where they slept under the stars before performing the stoning ritual.

Fear of COVID

Despite claims by Saudi authorities that masks are essential, large crowds have spurred fear that Covid may spread, especially after many pilgrims remained maskless.
Pilgrimages to Mecca are taking place in the wake of the resurgence of the incident in the region, and some Gulf countries are tightening regulations to curb the outbreak.

All participants were required to submit proof of vaccination and a negative PCR test. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has enrolled more than 795,000 cases of coronavirus, of which more than 9,000 are fatal. Approximately 67 million vaccinations have been given in more than 34 million countries.

The Mecca pilgrimage, whose timing is determined by the Islamic calendar of the moon, can be physically exhausted even under ideal conditions, but this year’s worshipers have risen to the scorching sun and 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit). Faced with the additional challenge of temperature. – AFP

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