Muslims mark Eid, final days of haj in Saudi Arabia
MINA, Saudi Arabia — Close to 2.5 million pilgrims took part in a symbolic stoning of the devil in the final days of the haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia as Muslims around the world marked the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations.
In Mina, pilgrims spend the final days of haj throwing pebbles at a pillar in a symbolic casting away of evil.
To mark the completion of the haj, male pilgrims shaved their hair and women trimmed theirs on Saturday to represent a spiritual renewal and rebirth.
Muslims around the world are commemorating the end of haj with Eid celebrations, including distributing meat to the poor.
The haj, one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, this year officially drew 2.49 million pilgrims to Islam’s holiest sites in Saudi Arabia.
Tens of thousands of security forces, including police and civil defence, have been deployed for haj, according to Saudi authorities.
Ambulances are mobilised to assist the faithful, cameras follow their movement, helicopters constantly fly over this valley of white tents that only comes alive once a year during the haj.
Large fans sprayed water over the crowd amid soaring temperatures.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman made the trip to Mina on Saturday and was seen on state-run television observing worshippers from the window of a high-rise.
“We pray to Allah almighty to… accept their pilgrimage and worship,” he tweeted on Sunday, which marked the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice.
Muslims traditionally slaughter sheep for the three-day holiday in tribute to Prophet Abraham’s sacrifice of a lamb after God at the last moment spared Ishmael, his son.
They consume some of the meat and give the rest to poor people unable to buy food.
Pilgrims can purchase coupons from the Saudi government, which organises the slaughter and freezing of the meat to avoid public health problems.
After the stoning ritual, pilgrims return to the Grand Mosque in Mecca to perform a final “tawaf” or circling of the Kaaba.
(AW and agencies)