Muslim pilgrims scale Mount Arafat for peak of hajj

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Over two million Muslims from across the world have gathered in Makkah Mukarramah for Hajj rituals, which are starting from today in Saudi Arabia.

The five-day hajj pilgrimage represents one of the world's biggest gathering every year.

The five duties a per the Koran are faith in only one God (Allah) and his prophet Mohammed, prayer, charity, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan and performing Hajj at least once in a life time. Nearly 14,000 global and domestic flights have so far transported pilgrims with around 21,000 buses also used.

This year the hajj comes with the ultra-conservative kingdom witnessing an unprecedented pace of change, finally ending a ban on women driving while remaining firm in the face of any dissent.

Muslim pilgrims walk in a street in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on August 18, 2018, ahead of the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. This is considered as the first pilgrimage in Islam.

Most pilgrims will leave the tented city in the morning on Monday for an emotional day on and around Jabal Rahmah, on Arafat's great plain.

Some pilgrims prayed at the Grand Mosque before heading to the Mina area or towards Mount Arafat, east of Mecca, where the Prophet is believed to have delivered his final sermon to followers.

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He added that the employees are to begin investigating in the holy places the cases referred to them by the concerned authorities, bring cases before the competent courts, manage detention units in the holy places, and oversee the implementation of court orders there.

Speaking from Muzdalifah, Al Arabiya News Channel's Khaled Al Amry said pilgrims were slowly descending from Mount Arafat after the sunset prayers and were making their 7km journey to Muzfalifah.

Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam's holiest sites - Mecca and Medina - and organizing the pilgrimage.

Although 1,200 Qataris are eligible to perform the Hajj under the system, Qatar says it has become impossible to get permits, blaming the campaign by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to cut trade and diplomatic ties with the country.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of using Hajj as a tool of pressure in its foreign politics.

But the reforms have been accompanied by a widening crackdown on dissent, with more than a dozen women's rights campaigners detained in recent weeks.

Officials aim to increase the number of umrah and haj pilgrims to 15 million and 5 million respectively by 2020, and hope to double the umrah number again to 30 million by 2030.

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