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Hajj commences as Saudi Arabia welcomes millions of Muslims

The annual Hajj pilgrimage commenced early on Monday, the eighth day of Dul Hijjah, with millions of Muslims from around the world taking part for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pilgrims arrived at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Sunday where they performed the Tawaf al-Qudum, known as the Tawaf of Arrival – the first step of the Hajj pilgrimage after entering the state of ihram.

Ihram refers to a sacred state that Muslims enter and remain in during the special rituals and events that are required to complete Hajj or Umrah, reports Al Arabiya.

They then performed Sa’i between the hills of Safa and Marwa, a ritual that serves to honor the mother of the Prophet Ismail and signifies her devotion and faith in God.

As the sun rose on Monday morning, the pilgrims gathered in the Grand Mosque to pray the sunrise prayers (Fajr) before setting off to Mina.

They then embarked on the journey to Mina where they will spend an entire day and night praying and preparing for the most significant day of the Islamic pilgrimage.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has set up thousands of tents in the area to ensure the pilgrims stay well-rested.

During their stay, the pilgrims will read the Quran and offer prayers all night.

On the ninth day of Dul Hijjah, the most pivotal day of Hajj, the pilgrims will flock to Mount Arafat.

The mountain is believed to be the place where Adam and Eve met again after God sent them back to Earth and where the Prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon.

They will then move on to Muzdalifah and spend the night supplicating and collected pebbles for the symbolic stoning of the devil ritual before proceeding with the final steps of the Hajj pilgrimage ahead of Eid al-Azha.

Restrictions on the number of pilgrims for this year’s Hajj season were lifted for the first time in several years after the coronavirus outbreak forced Saudi authorities to limit the capacity.

Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr Tawfiq al-Rabiah told a press conference on Thursday that authorities would continue to provide the best services to pilgrims under the directives of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The directives to lift restrictions were based on a thorough review of health indicators and the recommendations of health authorities, as well as the Kingdom’s readiness to organize Hajj with pilgrim numbers returning to their pre-pandemic levels, according to the minister.