News / Middle East

Pilgrims Perform Ritual Devil Stoning as Hajj Draws to Close

Pilgrims Perform Ritual Devil Stoning as Hajj Draws to Closei
X
October 18, 2013 4:45 AM
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims started to make their way to Mecca, Saudi Arabia for the Tawaf al-Wadaa, the circling of the Kaaba, as the annual Hajj pilgrimage drew to a close.
Pilgrims Perform Ritual Devil Stoning as Hajj Draws to Close
Reuters
Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims performed the ritual stoning of the Devil on Wednesday as the annual hajj season drew to a close with no significant tragedies reported by Saudi authorities who were determined to ensure a safe pilgrimage.

In June, Saudi religious authorities approved a request by the government to cut the number of pilgrims from abroad this year by a fifth and halve the number of pilgrims from inside Saudi Arabia due to expansion work on the Grand Mosque in Mecca.

As a result, 1.98 million pilgrims performed hajj, one of the pillars of Islam, this year against 3.2 million last year. The numbers are expected to go back up next year.

The hajj, which culminates in the three-day Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, officially ends on Thursday.

“This hajj was very easy as you can see its empty, so there's no pushing or people throwing stones at your head,” said Hassan Saleh, an Egyptian pilgrim from Cairo.

“Last time I was here, you couldn't even walk in the street because of the crowds,” Saleh, a driver who performed hajj three years ago, told Reuters.

  • A Muslim girl holds a balloon during a morning prayer marking the Eid al-Adha holiday on a street in Jakarta, Indonesia, Oct. 15, 2013.
  • Muslims travel on the roof of a train as they head to their homes ahead of Eid al-Adha as others wait at a railway station in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Oct. 15, 2013.
  • Members of the Afghan guard of honor perform Eid al-Adha prayers outside a mosque at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Oct 15, 2013.
  • Afghan men prepare to slaughter a buffalo during Eid al-Adha at Kacha Garhi Afghan refugee camp, located in the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, Oct. 15, 2013.
  • An Egyptian man holds a knife after slaughtering an animal on the first day of Eid al-Adha in Cairo, Oct. 15, 2013.
  • Butcher Hossam Hassan cuts lamb during Eid Al-Adha rituals in Maadi, Cairo, Oct. 15, 2013. (Hamada Elrasam for VOA)
  • A young Palestinian girl attends prayers on the first day of Eid al-Adha at Al-Yarmouk stadium in Gaza City, Oct. 15, 2013.
  • Muslims pray outside Moscow's main mosque during celebrations of Eid al-Adha, Oct. 15, 2013.
Although Saudi authorities did not draw a link with the issue, they have been concerned about whether the influx of people for hajj could help spread the SARS-like coronavirus MERS, which has killed 51 people in the kingdom.

The pilgrimage, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, has been prone to disasters in the past, mainly from stampedes as pilgrims rushed to complete rituals and return home. Hundreds of pilgrims died in a stampede in 2006.

Saudi authorities have since lavished vast sums to expand the main hajj sites and improve Mecca's transportation system.

Lower numbers

Of the total number of pilgrims this year, 1.38 million came from 188 countries, a 21 percent slide, and the remaining were domestic pilgrims, with their numbers dropping by around 57 percent.

“Many Saudis and other people who live in Saudi Arabia didn't come to the hajj this year because they were scared of this coronavirus spreading,” said Hassan Al Fares, a pilgrim from Saudi Arabia's Eastern province.

The Saudi ministry of health confirmed several times this week that no cases of the deadly MERS virus were reported among pilgrims.

Hajj security authorities also confirmed at a news conference late on Tuesday that no major incidents such as stampedes or political protests occurred this year. Some 95,000 members of the security forces were drafted to maintain order.

Aware of the potential for incidents to flare into political violence at a time of upheaval across the Middle East, including the war raging in Syria, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef asked pilgrims to leave disputes at home.

Regional Arab and Muslim organizations had pleaded with President Bashar al-Assad and Syrian rebels to mark Eid with a ceasefire, to no avail.

“We come here in peace and we will leave in peace, there's no need to hold a protest in the holy land, but prayers said here are like rockets they go straight to God who will free us from Bashar,” said pilgrim Khalid al-Semari, a Syrian health worker.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs