MOUNT ARAFAT: Around two million white-clad Muslims on Wednesday poured into the vast Saudi plain where Prophet Mohammed is believed to have given his final sermon, for the peak of the hajj pilgrimage.
Many of the faithful from around the globe camped at the foot of Mount Arafat where they slept, exhausted from their journey, and prayed despite the scorching sun.
Carrying colourful umbrellas, they walked from dawn in massive crowds towards the slippery, rocky hill which is also known as Mount Mercy.
Here they believe Mohammed gave his final sermon 14 centuries ago after leading his followers on hajj.
To organise the flow of pilgrims, security forces formed human chains along the roads of the vast Arafat plain.
Along the way, volunteers handed out boxes of food and cold water bottles.
For many pilgrims, hajj is the spiritual highlight of their lives.
“We feel blessed. I got goosebumps, a feeling that cannot be explained, when reaching the top of the mountain,” said Ruhaima Emma, a 26-year-old Filipina pilgrim, who said she has been “praying for a good life for everyone”.
For Akram Ghannam, 45, from war-torn Syria, being in Arafat is a “feeling that cannot be described. I pray to God for the victory of all those who are oppressed.”
Many reached Arafat by bus while some walked from the holy city of Mecca about 15 kilometres (nine miles) away.
Other pilgrims arrived from nearby Mina using the elevated Mashair Railway linking the holy sites of Arafat, Muzdalifah and Mina, a tent city where many pilgrims spent Tuesday night.
After sunset on Wednesday they will move to Muzdalifah. There they will gather pebbles for a symbolic stoning of the devil ritual on Thursday, which is also the Eid al-Adha feast of sacrifice marked by the world’s more than 1.5 billion Muslims.