Makkah: More than two million Muslims from around the world began performing the Haj rites, reports said on Thursday.
This year sees pilgrims from Iran return to Makkah in Saudi Arabia after a hiatus following a diplomatic spat between the regional rivals. Saudi authorities have mobilised vast resources including more than 100,000 security personnel to avoid a repeat of the stampede in 2015 in which nearly 2,300 people were killed.
This year’s pilgrimage comes amid a diplomatic crisis between a Saudi-led bloc of Arab countries and Qatar. Although Saudi Arabia relaxed entry restrictions across its land border with the emirate two weeks before the Haj, Qatar said only a few dozen of its nationals were able to join the pilgrimage.
On the esplanade of the Grand Mosque, Saudi authorities had placed misting fans to take the edge off the intense heat. Several times throughout the day, well-run teams of employees cleaned the esplanade with jets of water. (AFP)