2m pilgrims arrive in Mina

Muslim pilgrims touch Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, late on September 21, 2015. Photo: AFP

Two million Muslims from around the world arrived in the Mina valley outside the holy city of Makkah.

They came by bus, car or on foot to camp in the tent city for Yaum Al-Tarwiya on Tuesday's first leg of the annual Haj pilgrimage, reports Arab News .

The weather conditions were particularly harsh in the day but Hajis were pleasantly surprised by light showers after Maghreb. They stayed inside their tents beseeching Allah and reciting the Holy Qur'an.

The pilgrims came chanting, "Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik" (Here I am, Allah, answering Your call).

They will spend the night in 50,000 tents, in preparation for Wednesday's standing in prayer on Mount Arafat which is the climax of the five-day ritual.

Thanks to massive safety and security arrangements, the 8-km trek by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from Makkah to Mina, an uninhabited valley enclosed by arid mountains, was free of incident.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, who is chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, congratulated Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman on the successful arrival in the Kingdom of 1.38 million pilgrims from 164 nations. The number of Haj pilgrims is fewer than last year by 5,439.

In a message addressed to King Salman, the crown prince said: "I am honored on this blessed day to express my warmest greetings and congratulations to you on the successful and safe arrival of pilgrims by air, land and sea for Haj 2015.

They have arrived in the holy land in peace and security, thanks to Allah Almighty and your continuing care for all services to them which create the means of comfort and enable them to perform their Haj rituals easily and safely."

The crown prince prayed to Allah Almighty to preserve King Salman "for this nation as a leader and leader of its renaissance, and for the continuation of the blessings of security and faith for this country."

Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said the movement of pilgrims from Makkah into Mina was orderly and went according to a well-executed plan.

He credited the smooth movement to extraordinary coordination among all agencies and increased awareness among Saudis and expatriates to abide by the rules and regulations. Hatem Qazi of the Haj Ministry said 20,000 buses were pressed into service to transport the pilgrims from Makkah into Mina.

Everyone had a word of praise for the excellent arrangements.

"All our pilgrims were in Mina by 9 a.m. on Tuesday," said Indian Consul General B.S. Mubarak. "There were no hiccups."

Doctors at local hospitals said the intense weather was taking a toll on elderly pilgrims. "Once they were inside their tents, however, they were comfortable," said Dr. Masood Jilani, a doctor from Pakistan. "The sprinklers came on, lowering the temeprature somewhat."

Abida Khan, a 69-year-old woman from Pakistan, was in tears when she landed in Mina. "I am here because our beloved Prophet, peace be upon him, told us to do so. His word is a command to us," she told Arab News.

"Ever since I grew up, I have dreamed of coming here for Haj. In my mind's eye, I always saw the Holy Kaaba and Mina and Madinah. Now that I am here, I cannot believe my eyes. The dream has come true."

Egyptian pilgrim Amani Abdullah felt like she was on top of the world. "To see all these people from around the world responding to one call and speaking in one voice to our one Creator is an indescribable feeling," she said.

Khaled Nabeel, a Jeddah-based Syrian expat, was a little reluctant when Arab News approached him for his comments. "The only thing we Syrians are praying for is peace. We are hungry for peace. May Allah grant us and the people of the world peace," he said.



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