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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Millions of Muslims descend on Mecca despite high costs of making the global journey

By Morgan Coates, Adela Suliman and Naomi Schanen

About 2.5 million people are expected to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, this week.

The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah forecast high numbers of worshippers who are expected to converge on the Kaaba and nearby areas, as the annual religious event returns to its full capacity for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s despite the high costs of making the global journey.

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and considered an obligation of all able-bodied Muslims who have the financial means to attend.

Muslims flock from all over the world and often save up over a lifetime to take part in the Hajj pilgrimage. This year, high numbers are expected despite the rising cost of transport, hotels and fees.

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Saudi Arabia’s authorities have tried to limit numbers by putting in place quotas on visitors from individual countries. Despite this, officials say 2023 could be the biggest number of pilgrims on record after three years of Covid restrictions.

Muslim pilgrims follow in the footsteps of the prophet Muhammad (SAW) atop Saudi Arabia’s Jabal al-Rahma, also known as the “Mount of Mercy,” and pray for forgiveness and absolution from sins.

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High numbers of pilgrims have in the past led to fatalities and stampedes as thousands circle the Kaaba and travel outside Mecca to camp and worship.

Men wear simple white cloth robes and women wear modest abayas as they mimic the rituals of Abraham slaughtering sacrificial livestock, as well as his wife Hagar by running between mountains in search of water. Muslims who can’t attend the pilgrimage often fast and give to charity during the holy days.

Almost 2 billion Muslims globally will mark Eid al-Adha on Wednesday with mosque visits, sacrifices and family meals. They will wish each other “Eid Mubarak!” or a happy Eid.

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