Pilgrims defy scorching heat, ascend Mount Arafat for Hajj
Muslims begin the Hajj pilgrimage in the month of Dhul Hijjah, according to the Hijri calendar, which coincides with June/July in the Gregorian calendar.
As they inch closer to the climax of a potentially record-breaking hajj pilgrimage, hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims crowded Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat on Tuesday.
With the break of dawn, crowds of believers recited verses from the Quran on the rocky mountaintop where it is believed that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave his final sermon.
After three years of Covid restrictions, the annual pilgrimage, one of Islam's five pillars, may be the largest on record, as per officials.
The Hajj, one of the greatest religious gatherings in the world, has been anticipated to draw more than 2.5 million pilgrims.
On Monday, temperatures reached 46 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) when robed worshippers traveled from Mecca to Mina, where they spent the night in a massive tented city before performing the rituals at Mount Arafat.
A once in a lifetime 'opportunity'
This year, a maximum age limit has also been removed, giving thousands of elderly the opportunity to attend.
Tuesday provides the biggest physical challenge when pilgrims pray and recite the Quran on Mount Arafat and in the surrounding region amid high temperatures.
After dusk, pilgrims will make a quick trip to Muzdalifah, which lies midway between Arafat and Mina, to spend the night outside.
The following day, they will gather stones and throw them at three giant concrete walls in the symbolic "stoning of the devil" ritual.
Back at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, they will make one more lap around the Kaaba.
A day of Arafah, A blessed day❤ Hajj mubarak to all Muslims around the world 😍 Remember in your prayers ❤ #HajjMubarak#Hajj2023— Zuhaib Shahid (@zshahidofficial) June 27, 2023
#حج_1444هـ #يوم_عرفة #Hajj #Hajj_JourneyOfFaith pic.twitter.com/gpcCzC85If
Before heading to Arafat, American engineer Ahmed Ahmadine said as quoted by AFP he felt "blessed" to be able to take part in the pilgrimage.
"I try to focus on praying for my family and friends, " said the 37-year-old.
"This is an opportunity that will not be repeated."
It is worth noting that the costs of the pilgrimage have increased in recent years due to global inflation, deteriorating living conditions, and Riyadh's increased fees for religious occasions.