Hajj 2019: Almost 2.5 million pilgrims mark start of Eid al Adha - as it happened

Stay with us as we follow the steps being taken by millions of Muslims

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More than two million Muslims from around the world converge for rituals that retrace the Prophet Mohammed's last pilgrimage to Makkah. Follow us as we take you through the steps.


Almost 2.5 million pilgrims mark start of Eid al Adha

Around 2.5 million pilgrims took part in a symbolic stoning of the devil on Saturday, marking the final days of the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations for Muslims around the world.

To mark the completion of the Hajj, male pilgrims shave or cut their hair and women trim theirs to represent a spiritual renewal and rebirth. Pilgrims also remove the white terrycloth garments worn on the Hajj and change into their Eid outfits.

The five-day Hajj pilgrimage is required of all Muslims once in their lifetime, if they are financially and physically able to make the journey. The end of Hajj is marked with Eid celebrations, including distributing meat to the poor.

“I came from Sudan to Makkah where I performed the pilgrimage,” Mohammed Saleh said as he performed the final rites of hajj in Mina. “We hope all pilgrims will be successful in their Hajj.”

Others too expressed a sense of gratitude to have performed the Hajj.

The tent city at Mina. Balquees Basalom/ The National 

Saudi Arabia said 1.85 million pilgrims from more than 160 different countries traveled to the kingdom for the Hajj this year. Another 634,000 joined from within Saudi Arabi.

Saudi media reported King Salman visited Mina on Sunday to supervise the services provided during the Hajj. He included among his guests for the Hajj this year 200 survivors and relatives of victims of the mosque attacks in New Zealand, where a gunman opened fire and killed 51 people in March.


Overjoyed parents welcome new arrivals on Eid Al Adha

Nick Webster reports in Abu Dhabi: 

The timing could not have been more perfect for a pair of proud parents who welcomed their fifth child into the world on the first day of Eid Al Adha.

Kamal Abdul Hamid Sayyah, 35, said his wife's due date was Saturday, but they were delighted their new bundle of joy delayed her arrival by a day.

The Syrian father said the couple are still to decide on a name for the latest addition to the growing family, who was born at 4.29am, just minutes before Fajr prayers, weighing 3.3 kilograms, at Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women and Children in Abu Dhabi.

Read the full story


UAE leaders attend Eid al Adha prayers


British Muslims travel to Makkah on 'Tour de Hajj'


UAE leaders receive well-wishers after Eid Al Adha prayers 

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid meet in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy: Dubai Media Office

The UAE’s leaders marked the first day of Eid Al Adha by performing prayers at mosques across the country in the early hours on Sunday morning. Following the prayers, they exchanged greetings with well-wishers in their respective emirates.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, performed Eid prayers alongside hundreds of worshippers at Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Read the full story and view the gallery here. 


Update from the stoning at Jamrat Al Aqaba 


Joyous scenes as UAE worshippers gather for Eid prayers

Haneen Dajani reports from Abu Dhabi:

During the last moments before dawn, worshippers made their way towards Zayed the Second Mosque in the heart of Khalidiya. Many travelled in groups on foot to exchange Eid greetings on the way, in a sea of people moving through the streets.

It is customary for Muslims to perform Eid prayers at the neighbourhood mosque so they can meet friends and neighbours, while dozens of men chanted Eid prayer outside.

The voices differed and the accents varied, but the rhythm was one as they said: “God is greatest, God is greatest, God is greatest and there is no God but God, God is greatest, God is greatest and for God we show gratitude”.

Men, women and children rushed to the prayer halls to line up, while some posed for a photograph first.

Read the full story here.


Muslims offer Eid al Adha prayers in Indonesia

Muslims gathered in Indonesia’s capital on Sunday to offer prayers for Eid al Adha, which marks the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Young and old, men, women and children, gathered at the Al Azhar mosque, which can accommodate more than 5,000 people.They came from Jakarta and also from surrounding areas, such as Bekasi, Tangerang and Depok.

An Indonesian Muslim girl is pictured as she attends Eid al-Adha prayers on a street in Jakarta, Indonesia, August 11, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Muslim businessman Nur Harjanto said he hoped the festival would help reunite the community after tensions caused by this year’s election.

Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world.


Pilgrims circle the Kaaba

Thousands of Muslim pilgrims have started circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in Makkah - a ritual known as Tawaf Al Ifada.

They are circling the Kaaba counter-clockwise, their hearts tilting toward the structure that symbolises the oneness of God in Islam.

Muslims around the world pray toward the Kaaba daily, using compasses to help them pray in its direction.


Pilgrims arrive in Mina

Pilgrims arrive in Mina and start the first stoning at Jamrat Al Aqaba, stoning only one of the three locations on Sunday. The three together will be stoned on the 11th, 12th and 13th.

After the stoning some pilgrims will head to the holy mosque of Makkah and perform Tawaf Al Ifada (going around the Kabba seven times), others will perform it on other days.

After performing the stoning at Jamrat Al Aqaba, pilgrims can leave their state of Ihram by shaving or cutting their hair (women can cut a few hairs).

After this, pilgrims may remove their white garments and adorn themselves in their Eid outfits to enjoy the holiday. However, some activities are still forbidden, including sexual relations.


Live in Muzdalifah

It's been a long day for The National's Balquees Basalom, who is reporting live from Muzdalifah


Pilgrims collect stones in Muzdalifah

Pilgrims arrive in Muzdalifah, the third holy site on their journey, where they will spend the evening and collect the small stones to be used in the stoning ritual in Mina.

A Muslim pilgrim collects pebbles at Muzdalifah near the holy city of Mecca on August 10, 2019, to be used in the Stoning of the Devil ritual in Mina.  / AFP / FETHI BELAID


More than two million Hajjis

2,489,406 of pilgrims gathered in Saudi Arabia for Hajj, an increase of 4.96 per cent from last year


The sun sets on Arafat day 

As Arafat day draws to a close, the pilgrims start their journey towards Muzdalifah, the third sacred site, where they stay all night until they have prayed Fajr. They pick up 49 or 70 pebbles to perform the stoning duty on the next three or four days at Mina.

The National's Balquees Basalom was live from Arafat.

Posted by The National on Saturday, August 10, 2019


Pilgrims rejoice in the rain

Some footage of pilgrims enjoying the rain from The National's reporter in Makkah, Balquees Basalom, who reports that she is "soaked".

As well as giving some relief from the hot weather in Makkah, which has seen temperatures above 40C in recent days, some pilgrims see the rain as a blessing.


The skies open up over Arafat

The National's reporter in Makkah, Balquees Basalom, says that it has started raining in Arafat:


Volunteer: 'It is such an amazing feeling'

"This is my fifth time volunteering on Hajj," Ayman Al Khalwai, a volunteer first aid instructor with the Civil Defence tells The National's reporter in Makkah, Balquees Basalom. "What keeps me coming back is the Duaa, when you help the pilgrims, and they pray for you. It is such an amazing feeling."

Ayman Al Khalwai. Balquees Basalom/ The National


American pilgrim: 'It's beautiful to be among people and peace'


Water is distributed by volunteers


More than 2.4 million pilgrims counted

The Saudi General Authority for Statistics said the total number of pilgrims arriving in Makkah reached 2,487,160 at 9am on Saturday.

The number of pilgrims from outside the Kingdom reached 1,855,027, while the number of domestic pilgrims reached 632,133. A final count will be issued at 9pm on Saturday.


Health teams save six lives

The Medical teams at Ajyad Emergency Hospital saved the lives of six pilgrims who suffered cardiac arrest in the Grand Mosque, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

An emergency procedure was administered successfully for the six pilgrims and, once determined to be in a stable condition, they were discharged to complete their Hajj rituals.

Ajyad Emergency Hospital, adjacent to the Grand Mosque in Makkah, has been designated to receive emergency cases of patients from the Grand Mosque its surrounding areas.

According to UAE state news agency Wam, The Saudi Ministry of Health has prepared four hospitals with a capacity of 766 beds, in addition to 46 health centres in Arafat.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has also issued a guide for pilgrims containing health advice and guidance in seven languages, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The guide contains personal hygiene, avoiding heat stress, the treatment of muscular stress, as well as the prevention of digestive disorders during Hajj.
The Ministry has issued the guide in Arabic, English, Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Turkish, Urdu and Hausa.


Pilgrims arriving at Jabal Al Rahma


The National's Balquees has arrived at Arafat 


Ceremony to replace the Kiswah

The ceremony to replace the Kiswah (cover clothing) of Kaaba started on Friday evening.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, the ceremony was carried out by 160 technicians and makers, as is customary every year. The Kiswah consumes about 670 kilograms of raw silk, 120 kilograms of gold wire and 100 of silver wire.

Read more about the Kiswah in this article by Liza Ayach:

Walking in the Great Mosque of Makkah, a smell begins to rise as you approach the Kaaba — but not the one some might expect. It is perfume; thick and heady and coming from the black cube, also known as the House of God, in the centre of the mosque.

Said to be made from a sacred black stone and built by Prophet Ibrahim and his son, all Muslims face it when they pray. It is the ornate silk cloth adorning the Kaaba, known as the Kiswah, which is responsible for the aroma.


Saturday: Pilgrims head to Mount Arafat 

Good morning and welcome to day two of The National's live coverage of the Hajj pilgrimage.

More than two million pilgrims began heading to Arafat at dawn on Saturday to perform the initial rites of the pilgrimage.

The Hajj pilgrimage takes the faithful along a path traversed by the Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago which includes Mount Arafat, near where he is said to have delivered his final sermon calling for equality and for Muslims to unite.

On Friday, pilgrims from around the world headed on foot or on buses to Mina, at the base of Mount Arafat, where they spent the night.

Saudi officials said that 2.26 million pilgrims had arrived in Mina by late Friday, of which 1.86 million were from abroad. A total of 350,000 air-conditioned tents were pitched in Mina and cooling mist sprays were deployed across the area as temperatures exceeded 40C.

Muslim pilgrims make their way down on a rocky hill known as Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. More than 2 million pilgrims were gathered to perform initial rites of the hajj, an Islamic pilgrimage that takes the faithful along a path traversed by the Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

On Saturday worshippers will climb Mount Arafat, also known as the "Mount of Mercy", for hours of prayers and Koran recitals.

After descending, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic "stoning of the devil". That marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, marked on Sunday.

Pilgrims then return to the Grand Mosque to perform a final "tawaf" or walk around the Kaaba.

Stay with us for the latest updates, photographs and video from Makkah.


Thousands stop at Mina overnight ahead of their pilgrimage


Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed will perform the Eid Al Adha prayer at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, will perform the Eid Al Adha prayer at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

He will be joined by Sheikhs, ministers, senior officials, dignitaries and crowds of worshippers and will welcome well-wishers on the first day of Eid at Al Mushrif Palace.


Ambulances carry seriously ill pilgrims from the airport to Arafat

Thousands of pilgrims gathered in Mina on Friday ahead of their journey onto Arafat.

Those arriving at Taif Airport who will too ill to make the journey were collected by ambulances to complete their pilgrimage.


Hajj volunteers receive extensive training

About 1150 civil defence volunteers have been deployed in Mina  they will head to Arafat

The volunteers came from all parts of the Kingdom after going through 3 months training.

Civil defence volunteers in Mina. Balquees Basalom / The National
Volunteers in Mina. Balquees Basalom / The National


Hajj volunteers in Mina

Thousands of volunteers from around the world, many of them young people, come to help out at the pilgrimage. There were nearly 2.4 million pilgrims at Hajj in 2018, according to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


The National's Balquees begins her Hajj journey

See our journalist Balquees Basalom mark the start of her Hajj journey in the below video. This is Balquees's 18th Hajj pilgrimage.


Arriving in Mina

Saudi authorities say the first phase of moving hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Mina has been completed.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Maj Gen Mansour Al Turki said transport operations have been running smoothly. Pilgrims will walk to the Holy Site of Arafat at dawn on Saturday.

On the ground, The National's Balquees Basalom, has taken some photos of some of the Hajjis - young and old - she has met along the way.

Young pilgrims pose for a photo while on their way to Mina from Makkah during Hajj. Balquees Basalom / The National
Female pilgrims stop to pose for a photo on their way to Mina. Balquees Basalom / The National
A guide pours water over a pilgrim during a warm walk from Makkah to Mina. Balquees Basalom / The National


'All Hajj preparations going according to plan'

Dr Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten, the Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, confirmed that 1.86 million pilgrims have arrived from out of the country and about 400,000 from within Saudi Arabia.

Dr Benten told the Saudi Press Agency that all ministries working in Hajj have completed their preparations in Mina and Arafat. He said all plans are going accordingly.

On the ground, a Saudi official said Hajj has so far passed off without incident.


On the road to Mina

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims continue to stream into Mina, a district of Makkah, for the start of Hajj rituals.

Our reporter is lucky enough to be travelling by bus being put on by the authorities, but for most pilgrims - who are segregated by gender - it is a walk in the Saudi sun.

Mina sits in a narrow valley surrounded by rocky mountains and is transformed into the largest tent city in the world and can accommodate more than two million pilgrims.

A total of "350,000 air-conditioned tents have been pitched," an official said.

FILE - In this Sept. 25 2015 file photo, tents for pilgrims attending the annual hajj pilgrimage are seen from a helicopter over Mina, Saudi Arabia. On the second day of the hajj, after spending the night in the massive valley of Mina, the pilgrims head to Mount Arafat, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Mecca, for the pinnacle of the pilgrimage. (AP Photo/Mosa'ab Elshamy, File)


Staying healthy during Hajj

With this year's pilgrimage in the height of summer, Hajj can be a gruelling experience for pilgrims with pre-existing conditions. One of the biggest causes for hospital admissions is heatstroke.

Balquees Balsalom speaks to Dr Faisel Nassar, Mina Emergency hospital director, on the steps to take to avoid the illness.

We also take a look inside one of the eight temporary hospitals preparing to treat sick pilgrims. Read more here


Estimated 2.5 million pilgrims will perform Hajj

Hajj is one of humanity's largest gatherings and about 2.5 million people are performing one of the five pillars of Islam this year.

Official Saudi statistics said 1.86m pilgrims registered their electronic Hajj visas online, while many more will have booked through tour operators or embassies in their home country.

"More than 1.8 million visas were delivered online without the need for middlemen. It's a success," said Hajj ministry official Hatim bin Hassan Qadi.

On Friday, the Saudi Press Agency said there were 213,455 Saudi nationals travelling to Makkah performing Hajj this year. That figure doesn't include pilgrims from Makkah, though.


First pilgrims arrive in Mina


What is the Talbiyah?

Balquees Basalom explains some of the rituals on the first day of Hajj:

Talbiyah is the prayer invoked by the pilgrims as a conviction that they intend to perform the Hajj only for the glory of Allah.

It is repeated throughout Hajj. Here is a the Arabic and English texts:

Labbayka Allāhumma Labbayk. Labbayk Lā Sharīka Laka Labbayk. Inna l-Ḥamda, Wa n-Niʻmata, Laka wal Mulk, Lā Sharīka Lak


We answer you god. We answer you god. You have no partner, here I am. All praise and blessings and sovereignty are Yours, and You have no partner.

Pilgrims on their way to Mecca are reflected on the window of the Haramain High-Speed Railway train in the holy city of Medina, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have arrived in the kingdom to participate in the annual hajj pilgrimage, which starts Friday, a ritual required of all able-bodied Muslims at least once in their life. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)


A Hajj journey with a 'young veteran'

The National's Balquees Basalom will be performing her 18th Hajj pilgrimage. Balquees Basalom / The National

This year, The National is following social media reporter Balquees Balsalom on her Hajj experience.

Born and raised in Makkah, Balquees wrote an excellent article on what it is like for a young girl growing up in the holy city and how her family opens its doors for pilgrims during the Hajj season.

This will be Balquees' 18th Hajj pilgrimage.

"I'm excited to embark on this journey. I've prepared a list of prayers I want to ask Allah for, and I have a checklist for all the people I want to pray for," she said. "I have performed Hajj 17 times before, but it has been almost seven years since my last time.

"Every time it is different, this is my first without my family. I'm a bit worried it will get difficult and I'm alone but sure will make new friends on the journey."


Day 1: The day of Tarwiyah - Dhu Al Hijjah 8

Many pilgrims have been in Makkah for weeks where they have entered the state of Ihram, whereby they prepare their bodies and mind for the rituals ahead.

During this time, they have began their Hajj at the Kaaba.

As they approach the Kaaba, pilgrims must circumambulate in a counterclockwise direction, meant to express the devotion of Muslims praying to one God.

They must then perform Sa’ey, whereby Muslims re-enact the journey by Hagar, the Prophet Ibrahim's wife, as she went between two small hills in Makkah, Al Safa and Al Marwa, looking for water for her son Ismail. Muslims pace between the two points.

Pilgrims today then depart for Mina, five kilometres away, where they recite prayers and spend the night in the valley where the Prophet Ibrahim stoned the devil as he tried to lead him astray.


What is Hajj?

The world's largest annual pilgrimage, Hajj requires the faithful to repeat a set of rituals first performed by the Prophet Mohammed centuries ago.

The event is a deeply spiritual experience for Muslims, and one every believer aspires to take part in at some point in their life, if they are able.

Those who are unable to perform the pilgrimage for financial or health reasons are exempt. If they can afford it, Muslims can have someone perform Hajj on their behalf, with Sharia advising they fund someone who would otherwise be unable to attend.

You can read more on what Hajj entails here


Christchurch victim's sister makes Hajj pilgrimage in tribute

A photo of Hussein Al Umari, a victim of the Christchurch mosques shootings, carried by his sister Aya while performing Umrah for her brother. Courtesy of Aya Al Umari

The last time Aya Al Umari was in Makkah, she was a child travelling with her parents and her brother, Hussein, from their former home in Abu Dhabi to perform Umrah for the first time.

This year, Ms Al Umari returns to the spot where many years before she stood in front of the Kaaba and gazed up at it in wonder. Only this time, her brother will not be by her side. He exists only in the picture of him she carries around – although he is also the reason she is there.

Ms Al Umari is among the dozens of people affected by the Christchurch mosque attacks on March 15 who were invited to take part in Hajj this year by Saudi Arabia's King Salman. Hussein died at the Al Noor Mosque as he ran towards the terrorist, attempting to save other worshipers.

Read the full story here


Watch: First female medical director of temporary Hajj hospital