MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — In a swirling mass of white robes, hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims circled the Kaaba on Tuesday, elbowing and shoving each other to move closer to Islam’s holiest site in the climax of their annual journey to Mecca.
An estimated 2.3 million people from about 100 countries made the annual pilgrimage, or hajj, this year.
Pilgrims will circle the Kaaba on Thursday as a farewell.
The Kaaba is in the courtyard of the Grand Mosque. The Kaaba is not worshipped in Islam — only God is worshipped — but it is considered a spiritual center. Muslims throughout the world face in its direction when they say their daily prayers.
Muslims are required to make the hajj at least once in a lifetime, if they can afford it, and it is a deeply moving experience for many.
Ambulances ferried away pilgrims overcome by the searing heat. Temperatures on Tuesday reached a high of 100 degrees.
King Fahd and Crown Prince Abdullah arrived Monday to oversee the final proceedings of the hajj, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
In the past, the hajj has been troubled by deadly stampedes, fires and political protests that turned violent. But Saudi officials said this year has seen virtually no trouble and pledged to quickly quell any demonstrations.