Hajj at high point a year after deadly stampede

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MUZDALIFAH, Saudi Arabia: The hajj reached its high point on Sunday when Muslims from across the world converged on a stony hill in Saudi Arabia, a year after the worst tragedy in the pilgrimage’s history. More than 1.8 million people gathered from sunrise to sunset at the hill and a vast surrounding plain known as Mount Arafat, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Mecca. In stifling heat they chanted a traditional hajj incantation, “God, here I am,” spending the most important day of the annual rite in prayer and reading from the Koran. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which capable Muslims must perform at least once, marking the spiritual peak of their lives. Arafat is the site where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed gave his last sermon about 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on the pilgrimage. After sunset, the throng moved aboard buses to nearby Muzdalifah, in preparation for the first hajj stoning ritual since a deadly stampede during last year’s pilgrimage.

AFP

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