Two million Muslims leave for Mina as Hajj rituals start

This is the most technologically friendly pilgrimage with apps and sleep pods part of a bid to modernise the centuries-old practice of Hajj. Ahmad Al Rubaye  AFP

This is the most technologically friendly pilgrimage with apps and sleep pods part of a bid to modernise the centuries-old practice of Hajj. Ahmad Al Rubaye AFP

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Hajj inaugural flight took off with 446 Kogi Pilgrims on July 21 in Abuja, followed by 382 from Nasarawa State.

Muslim pilgrims speak to a translator in the Saudi holy city of Makkah.

The five-day pilgrimage must be performed by all Muslims, who are financially and physically able, at least once in their lives.

The six-day Hajj, starts today. It is the most important building in the Islamic religion.

"Now, it's one person from the neighborhood every three or four years".

The nap pods provide a solution for pilgrims of limited means who can not afford to book hotels on site but need a quick rest during hajj. Others save their entire lives to make the journey.

Qatari pilgrims are still permitted into Saudi Arabia for hajj. In the Christian and Jewish version of the story, Abraham is ordered to kill his other son, Isaac. Muslims also flock to the country for the umra pilgrimage, which can be performed at any time of the year.

The free nap pods are part of new measures Saudi Arabia is rolling out this year in a bid to modernise the centuries-old practice of Hajj.

The Kaaba represents the metaphorical house of God and the oneness of God. Pilgrims will leave for Mina early in the morning on Sunday.

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Since arriving, many have circled the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca - Islam's holiest site. When Muslims pray five times in a day, wherever they are in the world, they face the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca.

Pilgrims enter into a state of spiritual purity known as "ihram" that is aimed at shedding symbols of materialism, giving up worldly pleasures and focusing on the inner self over outward appearance. Dressing this way is meant to show that everyone is equal before Allah.

Pilgrims are not allowed to cut their hair, wear perfume, or engage in sexual acts.

Efforts to speak with the representative of the hajj commission in Makkah, Ahmad Muhazu, was unsuccessful, as he did not pick several calls to his telephone line, just as he did not respond to text messages. Inevitably, though, the massive crowds and physical exhaustion of the journey test pilgrims' patience and tolerance. Though the border was open hardly anybody from Qatar could perform the pilgrimage previous year because of the hurdles and humiliation they were subjected to, sources said.

Saudi Arabia - the world's largest exporter of oil - and its allies accuse Qatar of cosying up to both Sunni Islamist extremists and Shiite Iran, Riyadh's greatest rival.

During Hajj, pilgrims walk or run between the mountains of Safa and Marwah seven times as a tribute to the prophet Ibrahim's wife when she did the same in search of water.

On Monday, pilgrims will climb nearby Mount Arafat for the climax of the hajj, praying and reading the Quran. It is here where Muhammad delivered his final sermon, calling for equality and for Muslim unity. Around 21,000 buses have also been used.

Muslim pilgrams cast stones at the three pillars in the city of Mina as one of the duties to fulfill Hajj. Men often shave their heads at the end in a sign of renewal.

Eid al-Adha also includes the slaughter of sheep, with the meat distributed to Muslims in need.

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