Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam's holiest sites and organizing a peaceful haj, which has been marred in the past by deadly stampedes, fires and riots.
“To the pilgrims, and to the entire Muslim world, we wish a blessed Hajj," COGAT's head, Maj.-Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, said.
The ‘Feast of Sacrifice’ is celebrated by Muslims around the world with slowly evolving culinary and ritual traditions
The status of Jerusalem - home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions - is one of the biggest obstacles to any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Some pilgrims carried bright umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun as temperatures rose above 100 degrees.
Every able-bodied Muslim who has the means should perform the hajj at least once in their lifetime under a quota system.
Saudi Arabia is picking up the tab for Palestinians making the annual Muslim trip to Mecca.