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Pilgrims brave Mecca heat for Haj climax

GDN Online Desk

Mount Arafat: Their palms facing the sky, around two million Muslims gathered yesterday on Saudi Arabia’s Mount Arafat for the highlight of the Haj pilgrimage, one of the world’s largest annual gatherings.

With temperatures pushing 40 degrees Celsius under the desert sun, the faithful climbed the hill east of Mecca where Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed gave his last sermon some 14 centuries ago.

They gathered in prayer on Jabal Al Rahma, or Mount of Mercy, for the second day of the Haj.

At sunset, a sea of pilgrims clad in white made their way down the hill and headed to Muzdalifa to spend the night.

They will move on today to Mina before sunrise for the ritual of the symbolic “Stoning of the Devil”.

Tunisian mother-of-three Fatima Arfawi said she was moved beyond words during the prayers on Mount Arafat.

“This is the first time I see anything like this, ever,” she said. “This day is dedicated to prayer for my three children and my family.”

In a hospital opposite the mountain, an area was set aside for people suffering dehydration or heat exhaustion.

Saudi Arabia’s Red Crescent said it had deployed 326 ambulances along the pilgrimage route to handle health emergencies.

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