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Pilgrims 'stone the devil' in final Hajj ritual

Pilgrims 'stone the devil' in final Hajj ritual
June 28, 2023 Web Desk

MINA, Saudi Arabia (AFP) - Massive crowds of pilgrims gathered for the 'stoning of the devil' ritual in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday as the biggest Hajj pilgrimage since the pandemic draws to a close.

From dawn, hundreds of thousands of worshippers began pelting pebbles at three concrete monoliths representing Satan, the last major ritual of an event held in severe summer heat.

The pilgrims flocked to Mina, near Makkah, a day after enduring temperatures of 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit) as they prayed for hours on Mount Arafat.

More than 1.8 million pilgrims, most of them from abroad, joined the first Hajj with unrestricted numbers since pre-Covid in 2019, when 2.5 million took part. The attendance figure, announced by Saudi officials on Tuesday, falls well short of their predictions of beating the 2019 record.

The devil-stoning marks the start of the three-day Eidul Azha holiday, celebrated by Muslims by buying and slaughtering livestock to commemorate Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son.

Afterwards, the pilgrims return to Makkah to perform a farewell 'tawaf' – walking seven times around the Ka'aba, the giant black cube at the Grand Mosque that is the focal point of Islam.

On Wednesday, helicopters buzzed overhead and hundreds of police officers fanned out across Mina's roads to organise the flow of worshippers.

As well as the crowds, scorching conditions have been a major challenge for the worshippers from 160 countries, including many elderly after a maximum age limit was scrapped.

More than 32,000 health workers are on hand to treat anyone struck by heatstroke or other ailments, authorities say, while bottles of water are being distributed free of charge.