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Last major stage of the pilgrimage to Mecca, on the first day of Eid

More than 1.8 million Muslims performed the last major ritual of the annual pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, near Mecca (west), on Sunday, under oppressive heat, on the first day of the 'Aïd al-Adha, major festival of Islam.

Severe heat caused the death of at least 14 Jordanian pilgrims, the Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday, adding that 17 others were missing.

In Iran, the head of the Red Crescent for his part indicated that five Iranian pilgrims had “lost their lives (…) in Mecca and Medina” , without immediately specifying the circumstances surrounding their death.

Sunday marked the ritual of the stoning of Satan for which, at dawn, the faithful arrived by waves in the Mina valley in front of steles symbolizing the devil, on which they threw stones.

It is a ritual that they will repeat at least once in the coming days before making the final convolutions around the Kaaba, in the center of the Great Mosque, marking the end of the hajj.

The stoning ritual takes place on the first day of Eid al-Adha, a holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world.

In the middle of summer, in one of the hottest regions in the world, temperatures exceeded 40 degrees at midday on Sunday.

Last major stage of the pilgrimage to Mecca, on the first day of Eid

Muslim pilgrims arrive for the symbolic “stoning of Satan” ritual during the hajj pilgrimage in Mina, near Mecca, on June 16, 2024, in Saudi Arabia © AFP – Fadel Senna

Pilgrims were seen collapsed on the side of the road leading to the steles in Mina, sheltered by rare buildings and cars.

“It’s very difficult, we can’t find transportation, I can’t get up anymore,” said Ahmed Alsayed Omran, a 70-year-old Egyptian retiree, sitting on the sidewalk.

The authorities have not communicated on the number of cases of hyperthermia this year. More than 10,000 cases were recorded last year, including 10% heatstroke, the most serious case, according to a Saudi official.

– “Phenomenal” –

“The whole experience was physically exhausting,” said Neron Khan, a 49-year-old woman from Canada, saying she had been there -even on the verge of exhaustion at one point.

Last major stage of the pilgrimage to Mecca, on the first day of Eid

A man suffering from the intense heat is helped by a member of the Saudi security forces as Muslim pilgrims arrive to perform the symbolic ritual of “stoning Satan” in Mina, near Mecca, on June 16, 2024 © AFP – Fadel Senna

“But very spiritually charged,” she added. “Seeing so many different people (…) coming here for the same goal is just phenomenal.”

As in 2023, more than 1.8 million worshipers participated in the hajj this year, including 1.6 million from abroad, according to Saudi authorities.

On Saturday, pilgrims spent the day praying and reciting the Koran at Mount Arafat, where temperatures reached 46 degrees Celsius, before sleeping under the stars in the Mouzdalifa plain, a few kilometers from Mina.

Despite the high temperatures, the gathering around the hill where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have delivered his last sermon, the highlight of the pilgrimage, was held with great fervor.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam. It must be performed by all Muslims at least once in their life if they have the means.

– Feast of the Sacrifice –

On the occasion of Eid, Muslims slaughter an animal, generally a sheep, and offer part of the meat to the needy, in memory of the sacrifice that Abraham almost made by wanting to immolate his son before the angel Gabriel offers at the last minute to kill a sheep in his place, according to tradition.

Last major stage of the pilgrimage to Mecca, on the first day of Eid

Muslim worshipers arrive in Mina to perform the “stoning of Satan” ritual, near Mecca, on June 16, 2024 in Saudi Arabia. © AFP – FADEL SENNA

The celebrations, however, are overshadowed this year by the war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“We do not feel the “Eid because our brothers in Gaza are oppressed under the (Israeli) occupation,” said Najem Nawwar, a 43-year-old Egyptian pilgrim.

Saudi King Salman made bring 2,000 Palestinians to the hajj at their own expense, half of whom are family members of Gaza victims who have taken refuge abroad.

The authorities have warned that no slogan politics would not be tolerated during the hajj.

But that did not prevent many pilgrims from expressing their solidarity with the Palestinians to the AFP.< /p>

“We pray for them…and for the liberation of Palestine, so that we have two holidays instead of one,” said Wadih Ali Khalifah, a 32 year old Saudi.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116