Over 17,000 intending pilgrims stranded in Nigeria, may miss 2018 hajj

Glen Norman
August 21, 2018

A sea of worshippers scaled the rocky hill southeast of the holy city of Mecca for a day of prayers and reflection where Muslims believe Prophet Muhammed delivered his final sermon.

As more than 2 million pilgrims from around the world braved stormy weather in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to begin the annual haj ritual, the country's health minister said there was no sign of any outbreaks of disease.

While a holy, once-in-a-lifetime experience for pilgrims, the hajj is by no means an easy journey.

Most of the pilgrims began moving on Sunday from Makkah to the nearby Mina valley where they will spend the night in fire-resistant tents.

Hisham Mostafa told Reuters he had momentarily forgotten the war in Syria and his financial problems as he looked upon Islam's holiest sites for the first time, standing among hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered there.

For the Muslim faithful, haj retraces the last steps of the Prophet Mohammed and also honors the prophets Abraham and Ishmael.

Muhammad made the plea at a stakeholders/orientation meeting held a day before the pilgrims' departed for Mina, and urged the State Pilgrims Welfare Boards and tour operators to ensure total abidance with RSA regulations and guidelines for a smooth Hajj exercise.

The live stream shows millions of Muslims converging on Mount Arafat, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of the holy city of Mecca. "For the moment, I am in a dream", the 53-year old said.

Prince Khaled has also said this year's hajj includes 300 pilgrims from Qatar, a neighbouring emirate hit by a major Saudi-led boycott. Around the world, Muslims will mark the end of hajj with a celebration called Eid al-Adha.

They have cut all ties with Qatar - which denies the charges - and banned all flights to and from Doha.

Saudi minister of information, Awad Bn Saleh Al-Awad who conducted journalists to the cites reiterated the commitment of the kingdom to conduct a safe and hitch free hajj.

Saudi Arabia says the Qatari government is using the issue for political ends and it "rejects any effort to politicise the Hajj or drag political differences" into the pilgrimage, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. On Sept. 24, 2015, a stampede and crush of pilgrims in Mina killed at least 2,426 people, according to an Associated Press count.

Mr Muhktar said at the inaugural exercise that the strategy of early evacuation of pilgrims was to reduce the harsh weather effect and allow pilgrims settle down for prayers and other rites.

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