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Muslim pilgrims pray on Mount Arafat in hajj climax

Muslim pilgrims pray on Mount Arafat in hajj climax
15 June 2024 18:19

MOUNT ARAFAT, SAUDI ARABIA (AFP)

More than 1.5 million Muslims braved extreme heat to reach Mount Arafat on Saturday for the high point of the annual hajj pilgrimage, praying for hours, especially for Palestinians in war-ravaged Gaza.

Clad in white, worshippers began arriving at dawn for the most gruelling day of the annual rites, ascending the rocky, 70-metre (230-foot) hill where the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have given his last sermon.

"This is the most important day," said 46-year-old Egyptian Mohammed Asser, who came prepared with a list of prayers. "I pray also for the Palestinians. May God help them."

Some 2,000 Palestinians are performing the hajj at the special invitation of Saudi King Salman, official media said.

'Scary' Heat

The hajj, one of the world's biggest religious gatherings, is increasingly affected by climate change, according to a Saudi study published last month that said regional temperatures were rising 0.4 degrees Celsius each decade.

The rituals, which take at least five days to complete and are mostly outdoors, are "not easy because it is very hot", said Abraman Hawa, 26, from Ghana.

"We have sun... but it is not as hot. But I will pray to Allah at Arafat, because I need his support," she added.

The temperature was expected to hit 43 degrees Celsius (109.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday, creating challenges for pilgrims who arrived at Mount Arafat after spending the night in a giant tented city in Mina, a valley outside Mecca, Islam's holiest city.

Saudi authorities have urged pilgrims to drink plenty of water and protect themselves from the sun. Since men are prohibited from wearing hats, many carry umbrellas.

Mustafa, an Algerian pilgrim who gave only his first name, clung to his umbrella which was handed out by hajj organisers, saying, "it's what saves you here".
Another man, an Egyptian who preferred to remain anonymous, said he was drinking "a lot of juice and water" and had twice stopped to rest on the roadside.
More than 10,000 heat-related illnesses were recorded last year, 10 per cent of them heat stroke, a Saudi official told AFP this week.

Ahmad Karim Abdelsalam, a 33-year-old pilgrim from India, admitted that he found the prospect of passing hours on Mount Arafat "a little scary".
But with the help of an umbrella and water sprays, "God willing, everything will go well", he said.

Source: AFP
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