Hajj 2017: Incredible aerial photos of two million Muslim pilgrims on Mount Arafat near Mecca

The Hajj 'war' between Qatar and Saudi ArabiaWochit

Two million Muslims from around the world gathered at Mount Arafat on the outskirts of the holy city of Mecca on Thursday (31 August) for a vigil to atone for their sins and ask God's forgiveness as the annual hajj pilgrimage reaches its climax.

Mount Arafat, also known as Mount of Mercy (Jabal ar-Rahmah), is a small granite hill about 70 metres (230 feet) high. Incredible aerial photos show huge crowds of pilgrims, from more than 160 countries, covering the hill and the surrounding plain. Almost all are dressed in plain white garments, meant to symbolise unity among Muslims, humility and equality before God. Many carry umbrellas to shelter from the sun as temperatures approached 40 degrees Celsius (104°F).

An aerial view shows Muslim pilgrims gathering on Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy), southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Arafat is the site where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon about 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on the pilgrimageKarim Sahib/AFP
An aerial view of pilgrims gathering on Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy), on Arafat Day 31 August 2017Karim Sahib/AFP
Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira Mosque on the Plain of ArafatSuhaib Salem/Reuters
Muslim pilgrims use umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun as they pray outside Namira Mosque on the Plain of ArafatSuhaib Salem/Reuters

From dawn until dusk, the massive crowd of people will spend the day in supplication and contemplation on the hill where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon more than 1,400 years ago. In his sermon, the prophet called on his followers to repay their debts, beware of Satan, perform five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan and give to charity. He also called on those with the means to perform the hajj once in a lifetime.

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Muslim pilgrims help another to climb Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy) on the plains of ArafatSuhaib Salem/Reuters
A Muslim woman prays on Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy) on the plains of ArafatSuhaib Salem/Reuters

By sunset they will move to the rocky plain of Muzdalifa to gather pebbles, which they will throw at stone walls symbolising the devil the following morning. Male pilgrims will shave their hair and women will cut a lock of hair in a sign of renewal for completing the hajj. Around the world, Muslims will mark the end of hajj with a celebration called Eid al-Adha.

More than two million pilgrims, most of them from outside Saudi Arabia, are in Mecca for the five-day ritual, a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey. Many begin their pilgrimage by traveling to Medina, the site of both the Prophet Muhammad's first mosque and where he is buried.

The rites of the hajj, however, begin in Mecca, the site of Islam's holiest place of worship. There, pilgrims circulate the cube-shaped Kaaba and kneel in prayer facing it. The Kaaba represents the metaphorical house of God and the oneness of God in Islam. Observant Muslims around the world face toward the Kaaba during the five daily prayers. Saudi state television on Thursday showed a new kiswa, the cloth embroidered with verses from the Quran, being placed over the Kaaba. Pilgrims will return to pray there at the end of hajj.

A pilgrim takes a selfie in front of Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy)Bandar Aldandani/AFP
Muslim pilgrims take a selfie at the Grand Mosque in the holy Saudi city of Mecca, early on August 30, 2017, on the eve of the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimageKarim Sahib/AFP
Muslim pilgrims take selfies at the Grand Mosque in the holy Saudi city of Mecca, early on August 30, 2017, on the eve of the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimageKarim Sahib/AFP
Muslims pray at the Grand mosque in Mecca on 29 August 2017, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimageSuhaib Salem/Reuters
Muslims pray at the Grand mosque on 26 August 2017, ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in MeccaSuhaib Salem/Reuters
This long exposure photograph shows Muslim pilgrims circumambulating the KaabaKarim Sahib/AFP
Worshippers clamour to touch the Kaaba at Mecca's Grand mosqueSuhaib Salem/Reuters
Muslims touch the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Mecca ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimageSuhaib Salem/Reuters
A pilgrim visits Mount Al-Noor, overlooking the holy city of MeccaSuhaib Salem/Reuters
Muslim pilgrims visit Mount Al-Noor, where Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad received the first words of the Quran through Gabriel in the Hera caveSuhaib Salem/Reuters

The movement of such a large and diverse crowd of people in a short period of time in limited spaces is a logistical challenge for the Saudi government. Authorities have deployed more than 100,000 security forces to secure the hajj and assist pilgrims. Additional doctors, nurses, ambulances and mobile health centres are also deployed in the areas of hajj.

An aerial view shows buses transporting Muslim pilgrims to Mount ArafatKarim Sahib/AFP
An aerial view shows buses parked after dropping Muslim pilgrims off near Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy)Karim Sahib/AFP
An aerial view shows buses parked after dropping Muslim pilgrims off near Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy)Karim Sahib/AFP

A crush in 2015 which killed hundreds occurred when two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads in Mina, a few km east of Mecca, on their way to Jamarat. It was the worst disaster to strike hajj for at least 25 years.

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