Amazing Hajj Photographs

Mountain of mercy

Muslim pilgrims pray on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat near Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Dec. 7. Nearly 3 million pilgrims converged Saturday around the holy city of Mecca at the beginning of the 5-day hajj pilgrimage, a lifelong dream for many Muslims. AP / Hassan Ammar

Here is a collection of 19 astounding, beautiful photographs of the Hajj, taken in 2008. These photos come from the Associated Press (AP) and were assembled and published online by the Sacramento Bee, and one extra photo from the BBC Online. The commentary on the photos also comes from AP:

Islam requires that all Muslims who are financially and physically able to perform the hajj at least once in their lifetime. The pilgrimage is supposed to cleanse Muslims of their sin. The hajj begins and ends in the holy city of Mecca, the birthplace of the 7th century Prophet Mohammed and the site of Islam’s holiest shrine, the Kaaba. Pilgrims on Monday, joined in a feast of freshly slaughtered sheep, goats and camels at a huge tent city in Mina, a desert valley east of Mecca. Muslim tradition says it was at Mina, 3 miles from Mecca, that the devil tried to tempt Abraham to disobey God by refusing to sacrifice his son. Hordes of pilgrims dressed in their white robes streamed across Mina valley Monday toward three walls symbolizing the devil known as the Jamarat, chanting “at thy service, my God, at thy service.” The massive crowds streamed through a four-story platform the size of an airport terminal built around the walls, and each pilgrim stoned the largest wall with pebbles collected earlier on the nearby rocky plain of Muzdalifah. They will return on each of the final two days of the five-day pilgrimage, which ends Wednesday, to stone all three walls. — associated press

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