Muslim pilgrims perform devil-stoning ritual as hajj nears end

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Muslim pilgrims throw pebbles at pillars during the  “Jamarat” ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca. (AFP)
Muslim pilgrims throw pebbles at pillars during the “Jamarat” ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca. (AFP)
A man shaves the head of a Muslim pilgrim after the “Jamarat” ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca. (AFP)
A man shaves the head of a Muslim pilgrim after the “Jamarat” ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca. (AFP)
Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque of the holy city of Mecca. (AFP)
Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque of the holy city of Mecca. (AFP)
For most pilgrims coming from poorer Muslim nations, it is common to sleep in the streets and walk the trajectory among the sites, a distance of around 30 kilometers (19 miles). Many have children or elderly relatives with them.

“I envy them,” Ahmed Fahmy said of those enduring the difficult trek. “These people are following the footsteps of the Prophet (Mohammed). They could manage to get rides, but they exhaust themselves for the bigger reward with Allah.”

Fahmy, the general manager of the Cairo-based Islamic Huda TV, said this was his 11th hajj to complete. Despite feeling tired afterward, the reward of the pilgrimage is in the hardship one faces, he said.

“You feel obedient to Allah,” Fahmy said. “I feel like it’s something that is entirely for the pleasure of Allah.”

Red Crescent and civil defense helicopters have been overflying the area since the early morning.

“God is greatest, God is greatest, no God but Allah,” bellowed loudspeakers in Mina as pilgrims repeated the words.

The stay in Mina used to mark the most dangerous phase of the hajj for the Saudi authorities.

In past years, tents have been fire-proofed and gas canisters and cooking are now banned in the camps. The stoning area has also been expanded to avoid overcrowding.

Saudi authorities have built a five-level structure around the three sites, allowing for a smooth flow of pilgrims.

According to the authorities, 168,000 police officers and civil defense personnel were mobilized for the hajj this year.

For this year’s devil-stoning, the authorities organized specific times of day for each group of pilgrims to carry out the ritual.

Interior ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki told AFP on Friday that so far “hajj has passed normally and in good manner,” with no incidents reported.

Health ministry spokesman Khaled Mirghalani also said “no outbreak” of any illness had been recorded at the pilgrimage.

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