Muslim pilgrims throng Mina as annual hajj starts

RIYADH: Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from around the world on Wednesday began moving from the holy city of Makkah to nearby Mina for the start of the Hajj, the world s largest annual gathering. All the pilgrims will stay in Mina on Wednesday where they will spend the night in their tents where they will pray and rest. The pilgrims will offer Zohar‚ Asar‚ Maghreb and Isha prayers in Mina today and will leave for Arafat tomorrow after Fajar prayers to perform the main ritual of Hajj Waqoof-e-Arafat. The Imam will deliver Hajj Khutbah from Masjid-e-Nimra highlighting the importance of Hajj and challenges faced by the Muslim Ummah. From afternoon to sunset, they stand, in prayer and reflection, facing Makkah. In the evening after Arafat, pilgrims leave for Muzdalifah. At Muzdalifah, which is located between Arafat and Mina, the pilgrims sleep in the open (i.e., without tents). They spend the night in prayer and gathering stones for the next day s ritual “stoning of the devil.” The pilgrims will return to Mina before sun rise.