Annual Pilgrimage Begins in Saudi Arabia a Year After Deadly Stampede
Pilgrims seem undeterred by a stampede last year that killed thousands.
September 10, 2016, 5:42 PM
• 4 min read
-- Some two million Muslims from around the globe began the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
The five-day pilgrimage is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world.
Pilgrims are encircling Islam's most sacred site, the cube-shaped Kabaa in the holy city of Mecca, amid soaring temperatures. They are also taking part in a series of rituals this week that intend to promote greater humility and unity among Muslims.
Participation in the hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is viewed as an opportunity to wipe clean a slate of past sins and start fresh. All able-bodied Muslims must perform the five-day pilgrimage once in their lifetime.
Last year's pilgrimage was marred by a stampede near Mecca that killed more than 2,400 people, making it one of the deadliest incidents to occur during the annual hajj. The stampede happened as millions of pilgrims pushed their way forward to get close to the walls in Mina, a massive valley about three miles from Mecca.
In 2006, more than 360 people were killed in a stampede in the same area. Another one occurred in 2004, leaving 244 dead and hundreds injured.
Pilgrims this year seem unperturbed by last year's disaster as they embark on the same journey which Islam teaches the Prophet Muhammad took some 1,400 years ago.