Muslim pilgrims climb Mount Arafat for peak of hajj

Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al Yahya director general of the Directorate General of Passports speaking at a press conference in Jeddah on Thursday. — SG

About 55, 000 thousand Nigerians have joined 1.6 million fellow Muslims on the plains of Mount Arafat today, August 20, in commemoration of the Hajj holy rites in makkah, Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom tests Japan-inspired capsule hotels for hajj as the pilgrimage begins.

"This is their business", he said while speaking at a press conference.

The annual Islamic pilgrimage draws millions of visitors each year, making it the largest yearly gathering of people in the world.

Numerous signs directing pilgrims are translated into English, Urdu and in some cases, French.

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Muslim pilgrims walk towards Namirah mosque on Arafat Mountain, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca on Sunday.

Specialist departments deal with sermons and rulings, and a hotline is available in dozens of languages to answer religious questions.

The department has been in place for four years, he said, and is being continuously expanded to deal with rising demand.

The Ministry of Pilgrimage also manages the "Manasikana" application which provides translation for faithfuls who speak neither Arabic nor English.

Nayef Ahmed, 37, from Yemen, sold a plot of land to be able to afford to travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj. By sunset they will move to the rocky plain of Muzdalifa to gather pebbles to throw at stone columns symbolizing the devil at another location called Jamarat on Tuesday, which marks the first day of Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice.

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On Monday, pilgrims will climb Mount Arafat for the climax of the hajj, praying and reading the Qur'an.

Although the kingdom's young de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has spearheaded the changes, religion remains a key force in Saudi Arabia.

That has included pumping millions of dollars into high-tech initiatives.

Two million Muslims journey to the Holy City for the fifth and final pillar of Islam.

The nap pods provide a solution for pilgrims who can not afford to book hotels on site but need a quick rest during hajj, the report said.

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The hajj has at times been a point of controversy, following an incident in 1987 in which Saudi police crushed an Iranian protest during the pilgrimage against the United States and Israel. The government has also introduced apps for on-the-spot translation and emergency medical care.

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