Annual hajj pilgrimage comes to a close

Thousands of buses and cars streamed out of the holy city of Mecca on Thursday as nearly 3 million pilgrims ended their hajj pilgrimage and this year's journey of faith that for many Muslims is a lifelong dream drew to a close. The event passed without a repeat of the deadly stampedes that marred past pilgrimage, mainly thanks to construction and security projects the Saudi authorities put in place in Mecca and nearby holy sites. In 2006, 363 people were killed in a crush at the desert plain of Mina where pilgrims carry out a symbolic stoning of the devil. After living in frugal conditions for the past week while performing rituals and going from one holy site to another, the pilgrims left Mecca in several thousand vehicles Thursday. They headed in two directions: to the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, the second holiest city in Islam after Mecca, or the Red Sea port city of Jiddah to board ships or planes home.