Saudi Arabia says over 1.8 million mostly foreign pilgrims observing hajj

Saudi launches Persian hajj TV after tensions with Iran

Faruk Hamloui, an Algerian who for years has guided his compatriots at the hajj, said “people learned and understood that only organization and respect for the routes imposed to control the crowds helps to avoid dramas”.

Almost two million Muslims have begun heading to Mount Arafat near the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to mark the peak of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

The white terrycloth garments worn by men throughout the five-day hajj are forbidden to contain any stitching – a restriction meant to emphasize the equality of all Muslims and prevent wealthier pilgrims from differentiating themselves with more elaborate garments.

Pilgrims also circle the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca, Islam’s most sacred site.

This day “is the one time during the hajj when roughly all pilgrims are in the same place at the same time”, the wire service adds, and the pilgrims hail from more than 160 countries. With regard to the total number of vehicles carrying domestic pilgrims to Makkah, it has accounted for 29,169 cars.

Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it launched a television channel to broadcast the hajj rituals in the Persian language, also known as Farsi, spoken in Iran.

Authorities aim to give bracelets to each of the 1.3 million faithful from overseas, who are expected to be joined by more than 100,000 Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia.

Over 1.8 million pilgrims arrived in Saudi Arabia this year to perform the haj. The result is the sight of many in the tent city of Mina – which accommodates thousands of pilgrims – sporting bleeding heads, the paper says.

Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam’s holiest sites and organising Haj, a role that Iranian authorities challenged this week as part of an escalating war of words over the handling of last year’s disaster.

TEHRAN -Iran’s interest section in Cairo has blasted Arab media outlets for reporting that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei had issued an edict calling for performing this year’s hajj ritual in Karbala, Iraq.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which capable Muslims must perform at least once, marking the spiritual peak of their lives.

Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars in hajj infrastructure and safety projects over the years.

The Indonesian government will bring back 700 Indonesian haj pilgrims who went to Saudi Arabia through the Philippines before facing legal process, an official has said. “I have the impression of standing exactly in front of God, said Khadem Ndyaye, 47, of Senegal”. In response, Saudi Arabia’s mufti said Iran’s leaders were not Muslims. The publication Arab News reports that authorities have conducted 1,000 health and safety training courses in recent weeks and deployed 26,000 medical, technical and other official personnel to pilgrimage areas in Mecca, Medina, Arafat and Mina, along with a fleet of more than 175 ambulances.