The Hajj is one of the pillars of Islam, which every adult Muslim must
undertake at least once in their life if they can afford it and are
physically able.

Every year about two million Muslims converge on Mecca – the holiest place
in Islam – to take part in an event which combines piety and passion.

Many Muslims save for years in order to perform the pilgrimage. They often
have to travel thousands of miles.

Then, once they arrive, they must brave vast crowds and the fierce heat of
the desert as they perform the Hajj rituals.

Saudi custodians

For the host country, Saudi Arabia, the event has a special importance.
Saudi rulers are acutely conscious of their responsibility as custodians of
the Muslim holy places”¦

The sheer number of pilgrims poses formidable problems. In recent years
hundreds have died as a result of demonstrations, fires, stampedes – or
just sunstroke and exhaustion.

The Saudi authorities have introduced a quota system to keep down the
numbers of pilgrims. They have also tried, and failed, to keep politics out
of the Hajj


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