And so the pilgrimage begins...
It's really quite the scene now.
Thousands of buses crammed with pilgrims are making their way towards Mina as the Hajj begins. So far, things seem fairly efficient. There are naturally delays in moving so many people around, but overall, the increase in traffic controllers on the ground seems to be working.
No gridlock, as far as I can see, but expect that to change as we make our way towards the Plains of Arafat.
Here’s a quick rundown of how the next few days will play out.
Sunday Night: Pilgrims, already wearing their ihram, will spend the night in Mina. It;s roughly 8km from Makkah.
Monday: Pilgrims will make their way from Mina to the Plains of Arafat, and stay there until just past sunset. The Plains of Arafat are roughly 15km from Makkah. The Day of Arafat is considered the holiest day of the Hajj. Pilgrims will spend their time in prayer, and some will try to reach Jabal Rahman (or Mount Mercy) where it’s believed all prayers are answered.
Monday Night: Pilgrims make their way to Muzdalifah, a rocky plane between Arafat and Mina. While there, they will collect 49 pebbles to be used in the “stoning the devil” ritual.
Tuesday: Pilgrims return to Mina, and go through the “stoning the devil” ritual. Once that’s done, male pilgrims will shave their heads. They will also slaughter an animal (usually a lamb) with the meat distributed among the poor and needy. Afterwards, some will return to Mecca to circle the Ka’aba seven times, others will remain in Mina and return to Mecca the following day.
Wednesday – Thursday: Pilgrims are expected to spend Tuesday and Wednesday night in Mina, but during the day are free to return to Mecca. Most will complete their circuits around the Ka’ba on these days, when the Great Mosque is extremely crowded.
Wait till you see the pictures. You’ll see just how incredibly hectic it can be.