Crescent moon sighting sets Eid al Adha date for Nov 16

Saudi astronomers have announced that the annual Haj pilgrimage will begin on November 14, while November 16 will mark the Eid al Adha holy day and festival.

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RIYADH // The annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca will begin on November 14 after Saudi authorities on Saturday set November 16 for the Eid al Adha holy day and festival, following the sighting of the crescent moon.

After official astronomers confirmed the sighting, that decides the start of the month of Dhul al Hijja, the Supreme Court declared Sunday to be the first day of that month, the official SPA news agency reported.

The ruling means the annual Haj will now start on November 14.

More than 1.5 million Muslims from all over the world have already converged on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in western Saudi Arabia for the Haj, the world's largest annual gathering.

Officials estimate a total of about two million will take part this year.

Eid al Adha, which commemorates biblical patriarch Ibrahim's (or Abraham's) acceptance of God's command to sacrifice his son Ismail, always falls on the 10th of Dhul al Hijja on the Islamic calendar.

As Ibrahim was allowed to sacrifice a ram instead, Muslim families mark the day by ritually sacrificing sheep, goats, cows and other livestock, the meat of which is also shared with the needy.