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More than two million Muslims begin hajj, an annual pilgrimage to Mecca

More than two million Muslims are entering Saudi Arabia on Friday, August 9, the annual pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, amid ongoing tensions in the Gulf that have prompted authorities to warn against any attempt to politicize this religious gathering, one of the most important in the world.

The region was marked in May and June by a series of attacks against tankers, a drone shot down and tankers boarded. Iran's great rival, Saudi Arabia and its US ally accuse Tehran, who is dying to be behind the attacks. According to the Iranian news agency Tasnim, some 88,550 Iranians are due to participate in the hajj this year, despite the severance of diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Tehran.

Read also: The haj in figures

Saudi Arabia and Qatar, its neighbor, also broke off diplomatic relations in 2017, and the crisis has resulted in a restriction of the movement of Qatari citizens to the kingdom. The Ministry of Saudi Hadj said that "Very few Qataris have arrived in Mecca for pilgrimage"but claims that it is not related to the crisis between the two countries, accusing the "Qatari regime to politicize the haj and put obstacles in front of the pilgrims of Qatar".

 € œWe are proud to serve the â € œhects of Godâ €

The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, according to which "If he can, materially and physically, every Muslim must make at least once in his life a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia." Every year, the Saudi kingdom faces a huge logistical challenge to manage the uninterrupted flow of pilgrims and ensure their safety: tens of thousands of law enforcement personnel are mobilized to avoid any new drama during the pilgrimage, mourning in the past by bloody jostling, the most deadly having done in 2015 nearly 2,300 dead during the ritual of the stoning of Satan â € "symbolized by three stelae, on which believers must throw forty-nine stones found on the pilgrimage path.

"All state institutions are mobilized" and "We are proud to serve the 'guests of God'"Security forces spokesman Bassam Attia told reporters. The hajj is not an economic challenge for Saudi Arabia, which derives from believers' spending its second source of income each year, after the end of the war. Oil industry.

"One feels purified in accomplishing the hadj"

"You feel cleansed by doing the hajj, a pillar of Islam, and you meet people from all over the world. It's great! AT"exclaims on the spot Mohamed Jaafar, a 40-year-old Egyptian, from Agence France-Presse (AFP). "It's an indescribable feeling. You have to live it to understand »murmurs a five-year-old Algerian who performs the hadj for the first time. "It's a golden opportunity"says a woman who accompanies him.

Built on a desert valley and forbidden to non-Muslims, Mecca is home to the Kaaba, a cubic structure draped in a black cloth embroidered with gold, in the heart of the Great Mosque. © e. It is to her that Muslims around the world turn during their five daily prayers. Pilgrims must perform seven Kaaba turns three times during the five or six days of the Hajj, the opening date of which is two months after the end of Ramadan.

Aerial view of the city of Mina, in which several hundred thousand tents are installed during the hajj in and around Mecca. MOSAâ € ™ AB ELSHAMY / AP

The Hajj is a set of codified rites that take place in the heart of the holy city of Islam and its surroundings. This Friday, the pilgrims will attend the weekly prayer in the Great Mosque. The processions of men and women will then flow into the city of Mina, near Mecca, on foot or on buses made available by the authorities. The narrow valleys with rocky mountains are transformed each season from the hajj into a huge camp of white tents to shelter the pilgrims. Some "350,000 air-conditioned tents have been erected", said a Saudi official.

On Saturday, the faithful will begin the ascent of Mount Arafat, also known as the Mount of Mercy, to pray and gather for the rest of the day before returning to Mina for the ritual of worship. stoning of Satan. This ritual marks the beginning of Aïd el-Adha or the celebration of the sacrifice celebrated Sunday. The pilgrims then have to go one last time to the Great Mosque for a "Farewell Tour" At the Kaaba.

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