A year post-stampede, nearly 2 million pilgrims gather in Saudi for hajj
Close to two million pilgrims have converged in western Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj. The authorities have put in place new measures to prevent a recurrence of last year’s stampede, which killed around 2,300 pilgrims.
The stampede legacy has contributed to renewed tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is not sending pilgrims for the first time in nearly three decades. While the main rites of the six-day event begin on Saturday, pilgrims have already been swirling around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, in a procession that continues day and night.
It is one of the first rites of the pilgrimage, which is among the largest religious gatherings in the world. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which capable Muslims must perform at least once, marking the spiritual peak of their lives. Rich and poor alike come dressed in the same white garments.
“I feel no fear at all,” said Adil Abdulrahman, a British pilgrim, adding that the authorities have tried to make the faithful feel safe. A Nigerian visitor, Lawan Nasir, 45, said the loss of a cousin in last year’s stampede did not stop him from coming. “The pains have not dulled a bit,” he said, but it would be “silly” to stay away. “Death will come when has to,” he added.
Hajj Devotees get ID bracelets
Saudi Arabia has begun issuing hajj pilgrims with identification bracelets one year after a stampede killed around 2,300 people. The bracelets are a reassurance to some pilgrims, though their distribution has been far from systematic ahead of the formal start of the hajj from Saturday. Public statements and Saudi press reports show that changes have been made to prevent overcrowding even though no one was ever blamed for the tragedy. Each plasticised paper bracelet carries a bar code readable by smartphone. It indicates the pilgrim’s identity, nationality and place of lodging in Mecca. Additional data includes a contact in the pilgrim’s delegation and details provided when his or her visa was issued, the vice secretary of the ministry of hajj and umrah, Issa Rawas, said. Agencies