Heavy downpour in Mina two days before Haj
Mina witnessed heavy rains Sunday, two days before pilgrims
start descending on the tent city for Haj. Saudi authorities have
already taken measures against flash floods. Pilgrims have been
arriving in droves
Makkah: Hundreds of thousands
of white-clad believers, in buses, cars and on foot and all of
them chanting “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik” (“Here I am, O Allah,
here I am”), began their trek last night to the nearby tent city
of Mina in the first leg of the annual pilgrimage.
four million pilgrims were heading to Mina, where the weather was
moderate with a mild and cool breeze blowing across the Mina
valley. The Hajis will spend
their night before heading to the Mount of Arafat in the early
hours of Thursday.
Many pilgrims began leaving for Mina on Tuesday night after
circumambulating the Holy Kaaba, the first house of worship on
Earth, built by Adam. Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail rebuilt
it some 5,000 years ago. Most Hajj rituals are related to Prophet
Ibrahim, his wife Hager and his son Prophet Ismail, and thus
reflect the unity of humanity.
The Saudi government has given top priority to the security and
safety of pilgrims and has deployed thousands of security forces
in Makkah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, all cities within a radius
of 10 kilometers, to ensure a safe and secure Hajj.
A statement by the Saudi Interior Ministry on Tuesday said that
pilgrims were being transported to Mina smoothly without any
obstacles, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The Grand Mosque, the focal point of the Islamic faith, was
already teeming with joyful pilgrims at dawn on Monday, wearing
the simple white folds of cloth prescribed for Hajj, many of them
having slept on the white marble paving outside.
“I feel proud to be here because it’s a visual message that
Muslims are united. People speaking in all kind of languages pray
to the one God,” said Fahmi Mohammed al-Nemr, 52, from Egypt.
Hajj must be performed at least once in their lifetime by all
Muslims capable of making the expensive, difficult journey, a duty
that applies equally to Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
Saudi leaders have emphasized it is a strictly religious occasion
and they are prepared to deal with any troublemaking.
Last year nearly 3 million pilgrims performed the Hajj, with
roughly a third from inside the conservative kingdom. The Saudi
authorities said there have so far been 1.7 million arrivals from
abroad and about 200,000 from inside Saudi Arabia.
Makkah’s merchants, famed across the Arab world, are already doing
a thriving trade as pilgrims stock up on souvenirs such as prayer
beads and mats, Qurans, dates, gold and Zamzam water, pumped from
a holy well.
“The first time I saw the Kaaba I cried with joy. I prayed for
myself and all Muslims,” said Nafisa Rangrez, 36, from Gujarat in
India, who had waited five years for a Hajj visa, according to
All Muslims must face towards the Kaaba, the huge black cube at
the center of the Grand Mosque, five times a day for prayer,
making a visit to the sanctuary a powerful experience. Pilgrims
must circle it seven times when they arrive in Makkah.
Wednesday is the first official day of the pilgrimage, with
Muslims following a set form of rites laid out by the Prophet
Mohammed and culminating on Friday with the Eid al-Adha (Feast of
the Sacrifice), a holiday across the Islamic world.
“I would love to live here for the rest of my life. There’s no
such place in the entire world. This is a blessed country,” said
Ziad Adam, 23, a theology student from Kenya.
“It’s my first time in Makkah for pilgrimage. I can’t wait to pray
in Arafat,” 32-year-old Koara Abdul Rahman, a businessman from
Burkina Faso, told AFP.
“Right now, I’ve got all the good feelings you can think of,” said
an Iranian pilgrim, her voice quivering and tears welling.
Saudi Arabia’s king is formally titled Custodian of the Two Holy
Mosques and the ruling family has long reigned on its guardianship
of Islam’s birthplace.
Over the past decade it has spent billions of dollars expanding
the Grand Mosque and building new infrastructure to avert the
stampedes and tent fires that marred past pilgrimages with
hundreds of deaths.
In 2011, Saudi Arabia began the biggest expansion yet of the Grand
Mosque, to increase its capacity to 2 million. A new railway will
link the holy sites around Makkah.
This year alone, the kingdom spent more than 1.1 billion riyals
($293.3 million) on development projects in the holy sites of
Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, all outside Makkah, according to AFP.