On Saturday, the first day of Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice that marks the end of the hajj, the Muslim faithful made the last major stage of the great pilgrimage to Mecca.

On Saturday, the first day of Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice that marks the end of the hajj, this year the most important since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Muslim faithful made the last major stage of the great pilgrimage to Mecca. .

In the holiest city of Islam, located in western Saudi Arabia, pilgrims started on Saturday the “goodbye tawafconvolutions around the Kaaba, a cubic structure in the heart of the Great Mosque to which Muslims from all over the world turn to pray.

By dawn, the groups of devotees had gone to the Mina Valley near Mecca. According to tradition, they threw stones at concrete steles that symbolized Satan. This ritual is the last great stage of hajj, before the “goodbye tawafwhich takes place until Tuesday, the date of the end of the great pilgrimage.

Thousands of Muslim pilgrims gather in the Mina Valley near Mecca in western Saudi Arabia to perform the “stoning of the devil” ritual that marks the start of the Eid al festival. -Adha, July 9, 2022, while this year’s expanded hajj pilgrimage drew to an end. The faithful throw stones at three concrete walls representing Satan each year at the end of their pilgrimage to Mecca. DELIL SOULEIMAN v AFP

The pebbles were collected on Friday in the Mouzdalifa plain, where the faithful spent the night under the stars, after a day of prayer and meditation on Mount Arafat, another crucial step.

The stoning of Satan turned tragic in 2015 with a giant stampede that killed around 2,300 people. No incidents have been reported by the authorities this year, while the country welcomes almost a million pilgrims, of which about 780,000 from abroad, after two years of drastic restrictions due to Covid-19.

The hajj, which consists of a series of rituals performed over five days in and around Mecca, is one of the five pillars of Islam that must be undertaken by any able Muslim who can afford it. About 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world attended in 2019, but the Saudi authorities only allowed a few thousand residents in the next two years, at the height of the health crisis.

Zero Covid cases

Hosting the hajj is a matter of prestige for the rulers of the Saudi kingdom, for whom the preservation of the holiest places in Islam is a source of political legitimacy and aura in the Muslim world.

The absence of foreign pilgrims in 2020 and 2021 had caused profound disappointment among the faithful, who sometimes save years to be able to take part in the hajj. This pilgrimage, usually one of the largest religious gatherings on the planet, took place this year against the backdrop of a further increase in cases of Covid-19 contamination around the world.

The mask, the mandatory use of which was canceled in June in most enclosed spaces in Saudi Arabia, is currently only imposed in the Great Mosque of Mecca. Therefore, a large number of pilgrims wore no masks during the rituals.

Worshipers around the Kaaba, the holiest shrine in Islam. AFP

To enter the holy city, however, participants had to present proof of vaccination and negative PCR tests performed 72 hours before the trip.

No coronavirus cases have yet been detected among pilgrims, the ministry of health assured Thursday evening. Since the start of the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 795,000 coronavirus cases, including over 9,000 fatal. In the country of over 34 million people, approximately 67 million doses of the vaccine have been administered.

oppressive heat

Another challenge this year for the authorities: the oppressive heat with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees. Hats banned for men during hajj, pilgrims, lightly draped in white, try to protect themselves from the sun with umbrellas, prayer mats, even small buckets full of water.

The women, in abaya, a large black dress, are obliged to cover their heads with scarves. “I feel like I’m going to pass out, hurry up!a woman said to a friend after asking her to pour water on her face.

On Twitter, King Salman of Saudi Arabia said he was delighted to see so many faithful to Mecca. “We are proud of the honor of serving pilgrims and wish all Muslims a happy Eid al-Adha“, he has declared.

Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha on Saturday, a festival that consists of sacrificing an animal in memory of Abraham. The latter had almost sacrificed his son Ismaïl before the angel Gabriel offered him in extremis to kill a sheep in his place, according to tradition.

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