MECCA: More than two million Haj pilgrims hurled pebbles at a giant wall in a symbolic stoning of the devil in Mina yesterday.
Clad in white robes signifying a state of purity, men and women from 165 countries converged on Jamarat to perform the ritual from a three-storey bridge.
Under close supervision from Saudi authorities, the faithful carried umbrellas to block the blazing sun, with daytime temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius.
The kingdom has deployed more than 130,000 security forces and medics as well as modern technology including surveillance drones to maintain order.
“The police assistance and the services were all extraordinary. Praise God, I am very happy and God willing our Lord will provide for us again,” said Jordanian Firas Al Khashani, 33.
Pilgrims are asked to follow carefully orchestrated schedules for performing each stage of Haj.
More than 2.37 million pilgrims, most of them from abroad, have arrived this year for the five-day ritual, a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey.
“It is a beautiful feeling,” said Egyptian Hazem Darweesk, 31.
“The beauty of it is in the difficulty of performing it. It brings you closer to God.”
Saudi King Salman arrived in Mina, east of Mecca, on Monday evening ahead of Eid Al Adha, or the feast of sacrifice.
“Our country’s greatest honour is to serve God’s guests,” the monarch tweeted.
“On Eid Al Adha, I ask God to complete the pilgrims’ Haj and to perpetuate the goodness and peace for our nation and all other countries.”
King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received well-wishers at a palace in Mina yesterday.
Authorities aim to increase the number of Umrah and Haj pilgrims to 15 million and five million respectively by 2020, and hope to double the Umrah number again to 30 million by 2030.