RIYADH – Nearly two million Muslims have arrived in Mecca in preparation for the first day of the Islamic pilgrimage Hajj.
More than 1.8 million pilgrims had come to the holy city by Friday for the five-day long annual ritual, according to figures issued by Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
Authorities have launched an initiative called the Makkah Route aimed at facilitating the procedures of access control of the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, which they do in their own countries.
At least 150,000 pilgrims coming from five countries: Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tunisia and Malaysia have benefitted from the initiative, according to officials.
The Hajj is one of Islam’s five pillars, requirements that all adherents of Islam must perform in their lives, and Muslims are expected to do the pilgrimage provided they are fit enough and have the financial means to do so.
The ritual is known as al-Tarwiah and after spending the night in Mecca’s Mina district, they will head to Mount Arafat for the main Hajj ritual.
Arafat is where the prophet Mohamed is believed to have delivered his last sermon, according to the Islamic tradition.
Hajj represents a challenge for Saudi authorities, which have reinforced security and medical measures in a bid to avoid incidents.
Almost 2,000 pilgrims died in a stampede that took place in 2015, according to figures collected from different countries.
In the same year, more than 100 faithful died when a crane fell inside the Great Mosque of Mecca before the beginning of the pilgrimage.
Pilgrims also die every year from natural causes during the five days of ceremonies.