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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid