Haj to begin next week

On Thursday, Muslim pilgrims continued to arrive to the holy Saudi city of Mecca to perform Umra, a visit ahead of the annual Muslim pilgrimage of Haj which is due to begin next week.

Each year Muslims from around the world gather to perform Hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam which should be attempted once in a lifetime of all able bodied Muslims who can do so.

Mazila, a pilgrim from Malaysia said, "At the first time I saw the Kabaa I felt tears in my eyes, I couldn't believe it, I am here in the holy land and Allah (God) called me and my husband to perform the Haj this year."

The rituals of Haj continue for more than six days, starting on the 8th day of the month of Dhul Hijja, which falls this year in early November. Most pilgrims come earlier to perform the rites of the Umra before embarking on Hajj.

Faraj Mahrous, a pilgrim from Egypt said,"Actually this is my first Haj after the revolution in Egypt, the arrangements are completely different compared with the past. Now there is more care about the Egyptian pilgrimage; the Haj of Egyptians, there is more facility even in housing, even in transportation, people are being received at the airport, this has never happened before."

The Haj route takes pilgrims out of Mecca to Arafat about 10 miles to the east, where they spend the afternoon of the second day before returning to Mecca in stages.

In Mecca they repeat the rites of the Umra, including the circumambulation of the Kaaba at the center of the Grand Mosque.

This year, more than three million pilgrims are expected to gather in Mecca, the birthplace of Islam.

Mazila, sa pilgrim from Malaysia
Faraj Mahrous, a pilgrim from Egypt

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