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Muslims flock to Makkah as hajj begins

Over 2 million Muslims from across the world have gathered at Saudi Arab’s Makkah for the official start of the Hajj pilgrimage on Sunday.

The Standing (wuqoof), the climax of the pilgrimage, is to be held at the Arafat Maidan on Monday. Hajj will officially end on Tuesday, when Saudi Arabia celebrates Eid-ul-Azha, with the Korbani sacrifices.

According to Saudi Arabian media, Muslims from 164 countries are participating in this year’s Hajj. Approximately 125,000 Bangladeshis are among this year’s pilgrims.

Roads and highways leading to the tent city of Mina were filled with pilgrims as Saturday night wore on, according to the Saudi Gazette.

Hisham Mostafa told Reuters he had momentarily forgotten the war in Syria and his financial problems as he looked upon Islam’s holiest sites for the first time, standing among hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered there.

“This is the first time I see the Grand Mosque and the Kaaba. It is the best feeling of my life to be able to perform the Hajj,” the 50-year-old told Reuters.

The accountant has lived in Turkey for the past five years since fleeing the war in Syria’s Aleppo.

“War destroys everything … Life in Turkey is hard and I barely earn enough.”

Nayef Ahmed, 37, told Reuters that he sold a plot of land in Yemen, which is embroiled in a three-year proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, to afford the trip.

“Because of the war the prices are very high. But being here I feel comfort and peace and I pray to God for the war to end.”

The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam and is to be performed by every able-bodied Muslim with the means to do so.

The route of the pilgrimage retraces that taken by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the seventh century.

“I came for umrah (minor pilgrimage) in 2007 and today after 10 years of registering and waiting, I am here,” 59-year-old Tunisian national Najwa told Reuters.

“I cannot describe the feeling. I cry every day.”