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Makkah: Hunderds of thousands of faithful left the holy city of Makkah at dawn and headed for the sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat as the Haj pilgrimage started in earnest.
Attired in white, the believers, in buses, cars and on foot moved chanting “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” (“Here I am, O Allah, here I am”). Nearly 2 million pilgrims have come from abroad for what is described as the largest gathering of faithful in the world. They will be joined by nearly one million from within Saudi Arabia.
Pilgrims from nearly 150 countries are taking part in this year’s Haj. Among the countries that have sent the largest contingents of pilgrims are India, Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey.
In the arid valley of Mina, pilgrims will spend the night in government provided tents and buildings. Many pilgrims also headed to Mount Arafat.
Today, the Arafat Day, is the climax of the Haj, when pilgrims ascend Mount Arafat, some 10km southeast of Mina, to spend the day in prayer. The hilltop and the surrounding plain is where the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) is believed to have delivered his final Haj sermon.
After sunset, the pilgrims head to Muzdalifah, between Mina and Arafat, where they collect stones to throw at the devil, one of the last rituals which takes place tomorrow and marks the first day of Eid Al Adha, the feast of sacrifice.