‘An awesome, gargantuan sight’: Millions make pilgrimage to Mecca

By Anwar Tambe, at The Hajj in Saudi Arabia

The Hajj is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the holy city for Muslims.
The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is a necessary undertaking for Muslims around the world.

Anwar Tambe is in Saudi Arabia. Here he tells Sky News of his experience at The Hajj.
People people everywhere.

Image: More and more people are making the journey each year
The largest annual gathering of humanity – known as The Hajj – is under way, centring in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca.

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Everything about it is gargantuan. The crowds for a start, there are at least four million here. They are housed in high-rise hotels dominated by the – yes, gargantuan – Mecca Tower complex.

According to the Saudi paper Arab News, the plan is to bring in 10 million pilgrims (Hajis) by 2030. The Saudis are literally knocking down mountains to build hotels.

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Image: The Hajj centres on the holy city of Mecca, which is constantly building to cater for more pilgrims
The length, breadth and depth of the spread of the religion of Islam this century is apparent here – more so than my first Hajj 16 years ago.
It is incumbent on every Muslim to go on the pilgrimage if they have the means to do so.
And it seems more and more people from just about every corner of the world can afford the journey – which in the UK can cost anything between £5,000 and £20,000 for a top-end package.

Image: Vast tented cities dominate the areas outside Mecca
I’ve seen large contingents from the poorer nations from all the continents; from African countries such as Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad – along with people from Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
The turnout from the developed nations is also increasing.
Most pilgrims also spend time in the beautiful city of Medina visiting and praying in prophet’s mosque (Masjid Nabawi) which holds about 600,000 people.

Image: Anwar Tambe is at The Hajj in Saudi Arabia
The atmosphere there is much calmer than the organised chaos of Mecca’s big mosque (Masjid al Haram). It has a capacity of around 1.5 million, at least 15 times the size of Wembley, and is still growing.
I am currently in the vast tented city of Mina, just outside Mecca.
My tent is next to the one from the US. The Australians and French are also here.
The pilgrims have now donned the two pieces of unstitched clothing, called the Ihram.
The austere garments are a symbol of the equality of all pilgrims – rich or poor. Women can wear normal modest clothing covered from head to toe.
All Hajis are now focused on the climax of the Hajj, when all the millions wearing white gather in the plains of Arafat in searing 45C (113F) heat to pray for salvation for themselves, their relatives, friends and even strangers.
It’ll be an awesome sight.

Source : Sky News