One million Muslims are about to set off on the most important religious event in the Islamic calendar, as hundreds of thousands of global worshipers arrive in Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj.
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is the duty of every Muslim who is physically and financially able to perform it once in his life.
Hajj is an opportunity for Muslims to renew their faith, develop a closer relationship with God, and seek forgiveness for their sins.
Muslims from all over the world descend on Mecca as the Kaaba is located inside the Grand Mosque in the center of the city.
This is the first year since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 that international pilgrims within Mecca are allowed to perform the Hajj.
Men when coming for Hajj must wear two pieces of white cloth called Ihram, while women wear clothes that cover the length of her body and a veil that covers her hair.
The simplicity of the clothes symbolizes the equality of all people before God, as well as the state of purity before embarking on the spiritual journey.
Muslims first perform the tawaf, which is when they walk around the Kaaba in a clockwise direction seven times.
Then they walk or run seven times between the hills of Safa and Marwa in honor of the struggle of the Prophet Abraham’s wife, Hajar, who ran between the hills seven times in search of water for her son Ismail.
Al-Umran together is known as the Umrah – a lower pilgrimage that Muslims can perform throughout the year in Mecca.
After this first phase of the Hajj is completed, the pilgrims head to Mina, a tent city about eight kilometers from Mecca.
Here they spend the night in worship before one of the most important days of the Hajj calendar, the day of Arafat.
Pilgrims flock to Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his last sermon. They pray for forgiveness and read the Qur’an while standing on the mountain.
After Arafat, they went to Muzdalifah, an area of open plains near Mecca where they spend the night.
On the third day, pilgrims return to Mina to perform a ritual known as the Stoning of the Devil. They were throwing pebbles at three buildings, indicating the place that was tempted by Satan, the Prophet Ibrahim.
This is followed by the sacrifice of lamb, whose meat is distributed to the poor, on the first day of Eid.
Muslims around the world celebrate the holy feast with a special prayer at the mosque, followed by a meeting of food, family and friends. This year, Eid will fall on July 9.
In the final days of the Hajj, pilgrims return to Mecca to perform another circumambulation around the Kaaba and walk between the hills of Safa and Marwa, also returning to the three structures.