Hajj crowds in Mecca 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
More than 2 million people attend the hajj every year. Many Muslims from around the world wait a lifetime for a chance to make the spiritual journey in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad and Abraham, whom Muslims view as a forefather of Islam. For believers, it is an opportunity to cleanse one's sins before God.
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It is also a logistical nightmare. Over four days, the population of a small city moves by car, bus and foot between Mecca and several holy sites in the desert nearby, each day performing a different rite all at the same time.
Muslims beginning the annual Hajj pilgrimage this year have a new way to avoid the crowds: an elevated light-rail that will whisk them between holy sites.
The first phase of the train project, called the Mecca Metro, will
transport pilgrims between Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa. The three stops
on the pilgrims' journey trace the steps of the Prophet Muhammad and
The annual Islamic pilgrimage draws some 2.5 million worshippers each
year. The sheer numbers present authorities with a challenge in
preventing stampedes at holy sites, fires in pilgrim encampments and the
spread of disease.
The Saudi king on Saturday transferred his traditional supervisory
duties of the annual Muslim pilgrimage to his deputy prime minister
after rupturing a disc in his back.
King Abdullah normally heads the committee charged with ensuring the
smooth operation of the hajj, the largest annual gathering in the world.
But a statement released by the Royal Court said the 86-year-old
monarch herniated a disc in his back and Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz will
take over the supervisory role.
The statement did not say how the king's injury occurred.