Saudi Arabia Prepares to Welcome 2 Million Muslims For Annual Haj Pilgrimage
Nearly 1.5 million pilgrims have already descended on the Holy City of Mecca in anticipation of the Haj which takes place between August 30 to September 4.
File photo: Pilgrims at the Grande Mosque, the largest mosque in the world (Photo courtesy: AFP Relaxnews/ Ministry of Culture and Information, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)
Saudi Arabia is expecting 2 million visitors for the annual Islamic Haj pilgrimage this year, the largest annual international gathering in the world.
To date, nearly 1.5 million pilgrims have already descended on the Holy City of Mecca in anticipation of the Haj which takes place between August 30 to September 4.
As one of the five pillars of Islam, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah is mandatory for physically and financially capable Muslims to perform at least once in their lives. The rituals are intended to cleanse the soul and demonstrate the equality and solidarity of all Muslims in their submission to God.
According to the Kingdom's Ministry of Culture and Information, the number of foreign visitors has soared over the years: In 1941, a modest 24,000 pilgrims made the journey to Mecca, compared to 1.325 million in 2016.
Add the number of local Saudi pilgrims, and that number shot up to 1.86 million Muslims who performed the Haj last year.
This year, Saudi Arabia is expecting visitors from 80 countries.
To accommodate the sudden swell of pilgrims, the city of Mina -- also known as the City of Tents -- sets up tens of thousands of air-conditioned tents which are grouped according to nationality.
More than 17,000 civil defense personnel are being deployed to monitor the event.
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