Pilgrims prepare for Eid Al Adha with joy over the return of pre-pandemic Hajj

More than 1.8 million Muslims take part in Day of Arafat

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With celebrations for Eid Al Adha set to begin on Wednesday, Hajj pilgrims continue their spiritual journey.

In Saudi Arabia, more than 1.8 million Muslims took part in the Day of Arafat, scaling Mount Arafat amid high temperatures.

By the afternoon, thousands of men and women, many carrying umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun's rays amid temperatures of up to 48ºC, stood on the granite hill where Prophet Mohammed is said to have delivered his final sermon.

“It’s extremely hot, but we are lucky to be here. We are very blessed and we don’t take that for granted,” said pilgrim Eman Ali.

Hajj preacher Sheikh Yousef bin Mohammed called for Muslims to unite in prayer and avoid conflict during the sermon he delivered at Namirah Mosque.

Sheikh Yousef, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars who has served as a preacher during Eid for about 20 years, emphasised to pilgrims that racism had no basis in Islam.

“God has forbidden among you the spilling of blood, looting of wealth and violation of honour,” Sheikh Yousef said.

“The difference in languages, colours and ethnicities does not justify falling into discords and divisions.”

God has commanded “unity, love and harmony, and prohibits disputes and divisions”, he said.

His sermon was translated into 20 languages and broadcast in the original Arabic, with simultaneous sign language interpretation.

Millions of pilgrims listened to the sermon and many more watched from abroad.

“We are all watching the Hajj sermon live on YouTube,” Diana Wijaya from Indonesia told The National.

Pilgrims combined their dhuhr and asr prayers in shortened forms before making their way to Muzdalifah, where they will spend the night.

There, they will collect pebbles to take with them to the stoning of the devil on the first day of Eid Al Adha on Wednesday before heading to back to Makkah's Grand Mosque to perform a final circumambulation of the Kaaba.

Worshippers are recommended to collect 70 pebbles to cast at three pillars where the devil is said to have appeared to the Prophet Ibrahim.

Egyptian schoolteacher Tasneem Gamal, 35, said she was overwhelmed by the experience.

“I cannot describe my feelings. I am living a great joy,” she told AFP.

Ms Gamal said she was performing Hajj without a male guardian, a requirement that Saudi authorities lifted in 2021.

This year, a maximum age limit has also been removed, giving thousands of elderly Muslims the chance to attend.

Heat presents challenges

As helicopters buzzed overhead, entry roads were packed with worshippers. Thousands of health workers were also on alert for cases of heatstroke and exhaustion.

The heat risk will be highest from 12pm to 3pm, when outdoor labour is banned in Saudi Arabia between June and September to protect workers.

The Ministry of Health has alerted pilgrims to the dangers of heat stress during Hajj amid a rise in temperatures that can pose a threat to health.

It stressed that using umbrellas, drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding physical exertion and following health guidelines can help protect against problems arising from the heat.

The ministry said hospitals near Arafat were ready to provide medical care to pilgrims. More than 900 beds have been prepared in the four hospitals, fully equipped to receive cases of sunstroke, heat exhaustion and other emergencies.

Before heading to Arafat, American engineer Ahmed Ahmadine, 37, said he felt blessed to be able to take part in the pilgrimage.

“I try to focus on praying for my family and friends,” he said.

“This is an opportunity that will not be repeated.”

Updated: June 29, 2023, 4:35 AM