MAKKAH – Hundreds of thousands of white-clad Muslim pilgrims from around the globe began moving on Saturday, September 10, to Mina on the first leg of their journey of a lifetime, preparing for the climax of their pilgrimage when they ascend Mount `Arafat.
“We are following in the footsteps of our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him,” Abrar Mustafa, from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, told Arab News on Saturday.
“The Prophet directed us to undertake this journey and so we are here, having traveled hundreds of kilometers to be in this holy land.”
From early hours on Saturday, nearly 1.5 millions of pilgrims embarked on their slow and steady trek to Mina in the first leg of their five-day journey.
Spirituality and peace were in the air in the sprawling tent city which is surrounded by (Mountain of Light) and other hills, as more pilgrims poured in with every hour, each group reverberating with chants of “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” (O God, here I am answering your call).
Once in their fireproof tents, masses of faithful, clad in the white ihram garb, busy themselves reciting the Noble Qur’an and praying.
Many try to catch some sleep — after a tiring journey from Makkah that on average takes five hours – as they ready for the climax of their ultimate spiritual experience.
On Sunday morning, the pilgrims will descend the Mount `Arafat where Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) delivered his last sermon more than 14 centuries ago.
The pilgrims then will return to Mina after spending the night in Muzdalifah.
They will take part in the symbolic stoning of the devil at Jamrat Al-Aqaba and sacrifice animals to mark the four-day `Eid Al-Adha, which starts Monday.
Saudi authorities were deployed to secure an easy transfer of pilgrims during hajj rituals, taking all procedures to protect them from possible threats.
“All arrangements have been made for the journeys of the pilgrims to be safe, secure and easy,” said interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki.
Al-Turki described the journey of pilgrims from Makkah to Mina as “the world’s largest mass movement of people.”
Hajj Security Forces Commander Lt. Gen. Khaled Al-Harbi said it was an honor to serve the guests of Allah.
“It is a privilege bestowed by Almighty Allah on this blessed land, its honorable leadership and its committed people. We, Saudis, take great pride in offering our services to the pilgrims. We want to do all we can to make their journey comfortable,” he said.
Government facilities were moved out of Mina to free up space, the Saudi Gazette reported, while roads in the Jamarat area were expanded, the Arab News said.
Officials have been issuing pilgrims with bracelets that store their personal data. after some foreign officials expressed concern about difficulties in identifying the stampede dead.
“They told us not to stray from our group, not to linger when buses arrive and depart, and to properly follow the designated routes,” said Rasha Mohammed, 36, of Alexandria, Egypt.
“Each pilgrim wears a bracelet which carries a barcode readable by smartphone. It holds data which gives the pilgrim’s identity, nationality, and place of lodging in Makkah,” said Issa Rawas of the Ministry of Haj and Umrah.
AFP found pilgrims wearing the new bracelets which authorities aim to give to each of the more than 1.4 million faithful from abroad.
“We don’t come here with fear in our hearts,” Naouri Abdelkarim, 50, of Casablanca, Morocco, said to AFP.