Muslims circle the Kaaba at start of annual Hajj pilgrimage

Hajj: Images show Saudi Arabia preparing for arrival of over two million Muslim pilgrims in Mecca

More than one million pilgrims have already arrived in Saudi Arabia, days before the kingdom prepares to host its mammoth annual Hajj pilgrimage, according to state media.

While a holy, once-in-a-lifetime experience for pilgrims, the hajj is by no means an easy journey.

Each fibreglass pod - less than 3 metres long and just over 1 metre high - features a mattress, clean sheets, air conditioning and a large, well-lit mirror.

But many Qataris have complained that registration on a Saudi Arabian ministry website specifically for the pilgrimage has proved impossible.

Few hours from now the rites will begin with all pilgrims moving from Makkah to the tents in minna, enroute Arafat plains where on Monday, the 9th of Zhul hijja they will spend the day making supplications to Allah; a ritual that is a must in Hajj.

Each napper will have three hours of access to the pods, which are imported from Japan at cost of around $1,114 (Dh 4,100) each.

One of the five pillars of the world's fastest-growing religion, the hajj this year runs from August 19 to 24 and is expected to draw 2 million of the world's estimated 2 billion Muslims.

Saudi Arabia has drawn harsh criticism for a crackdown on political dissent since the appointment previous year of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose modernisation campaign has grabbed headlines around the world.

Thousands of buses and vehicles carrying the pilgrims lined the eight kilometre road from Makkah to Mina.

"The capsules work through a share economy, like bicycles that you can rent for an hour and then leave for someone else", said Amer. "For the moment, I am in a dream", the 53-year old said.


Every day Muslims around the world orient themselves to pray towards this shrine, the Kaaba.

Saudi authorities have said Qatari pilgrims were welcome at the hajj and last week denied it was blocking them from travelling to the kingdom's holy sites.

People visiting Mecca this year have been reminded that there are ongoing threats of terrorism in Saudi Arabia.

Pilgrims circle the Kaaba.

This year's pilgrimage comes with the oil-flush kingdom witnessing unprecedented change, including an end to a ban on women driving.

The 2018 pilgrimage comes amid a widening crackdown on political dissent in Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy aggressively pursuing a campaign to clean up its image as one of the world's most restrictive countries. Some have been released.

They gather pebbles to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil on the eve of the Eidul Azha feast, which marks the end of hajj.

Eid al-Adha also includes the slaughter of sheep, with the meat distributed to Muslims in need.

The ritual symbolizes Hazrat Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son, Hazrat Ismail, on the order of Allah.

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