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Millions of Muslims Ask Forgiveness on Sacred Mount at Hajj Climax

Vast swells of pilgrims congregated on Mount Arafat in one of the major focal points of the annual Hajj to Mecca. Saudi authorities say this year's Hajj has been without incident, unlike many previous years, as Edward Yeranian reports from Cairo.

Pilgrims listened with rapt attention to the sermon from Namera Mosque on Mount Arafat, on the second day of the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.

The ascent of Mount Arafat began early, and by sunrise hundreds of thousands of white cloaked pilgrims had converged on the site where Mohammed was reputed to have delivered his last sermon, about 14 centuries ago.

Puffs of smoke rose into the air, and swirled around, driven by a light breeze, as the vast swell of pilgrims stood on the mountain and prayed in the sun on a warm December day.

Sheikh Abdallah Musfar says the climb of Mount Arafat is the best and most memorable day of the Hajj, and explains its significance.

He says that on this day, every second and every minute is devoted to God. Arafat, he insists, is the best day of all, because God came and appeared in the sky to the Muslim faithful, to deliver a message, and then re-appeared every night, in all his glory to both the angels in the sky and to man on earth.

Saudi government TV reports that up to three million pilgrims are present in Mecca for this year's Hajj, and that no serious incidents have been reported.

Saudi Security forces, along with civil defense workers, and boy scouts have been deployed to keep order and to assist pilgrims with food, water, directions and first aid, when necessary.

Saudi National Guard Health Affairs Director Dr. Abdallah ben Abd al Aziz Rabeia explains how his men are helping pilgrims on their journey.

He says the National Guard participates in the Hajj in many ways, including with troops stationed in Mina, in addition to specialized clinics for the sick. He adds that the National Guard has 10 brigades of rapid intervention forces that are armed, just in case. Rescue vehicles, equipped with beds, medications and mobile clinics are also on call.

Even boy scouts, like 16 year-old Abdallah Qadmy are participating in this year's Hajj, putting in eight-hour days of welcoming pilgrims, giving directions and providing water to the thirsty.

He says that he came to Mecca from his home town with a sincere desire to help pilgrims. He says it is a joy to do this work and that one is rewarded by the sense of having done his duty.

At sunset, pilgrims descend Mount Arafat towards the Valley of Muzdalifa, where they will remain for the night, before returning, Monday, to Mina, where they will sacrifice a lamb to commemorate their pilgrimage.