Muslims at Hajj pilgrimage brave intense heat to cast stones at pillars representing the devil

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JUNE 28, 2023

Pilgrims cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holly city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

MINA, Saudi Arabia — Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims on Wednesday braved intense heat to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil during the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Pilgrims walk to cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holly city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

With morning temperatures rising past 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Farenheit), huge crowds of pilgrims walked or took buses to the vast Jamarat complex just outside the holy city of Mecca, where large pedestrian bridges lead past three wide pillars representing the devil.

Pilgrims cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holly city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Using pebbles collected the night before at a campsite known as Muzdalifa, the pilgrims stone the pillars. It’s a reenactment of the story of the Prophet Ibrahim — known as Abraham in Christian and Jewish traditions — who is said to have hurled stones at Satan to resist temptation.

A water is sprayed on pilgrims to cool them as they walk to cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holly city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

The ceremony was marred by tragedy on a number of occasions in the 1990s and 2000s, when hundreds died in stampedes during the stoning ritual. Saudi authorities have since built an expanded network of massive pedestrian bridges and redesigned the site to make it safer for pilgrims.

Pilgrims pray after they cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holly city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

This year, the biggest danger might be the heat.

Pilgrims pray after they cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holly city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Temperatures soared past 45 degrees Celsius (113 F) on Tuesday, as Muslims marked the spiritual high point of the pilgrimage by spending the day praying at Mount Arafat, where there was no breeze and almost no shade.

Pilgrims cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holly city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Pilgrims huddled under umbrellas, dousing themselves with bottled water. Cellphones were almost too hot to hold and shut down after just a few minutes of use.

A water is sprayed on pilgrims to cool them as they walk to cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Mina near the holly city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Saudi authorities have deployed tens of thousands of health workers for the pilgrimage and volunteers were handing out water. The Health Ministry said late Tuesday that it had treated 287 cases of sunstroke and heat exhaustion.

A Muslim pilgrim holds an umbrella as he walks to cast stones at a pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil, the last rite of the annual Hajj, in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Around two million pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

The annual Hajj pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam, and all Muslims are required to undertake it at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able. For the pilgrims it is an unrivalled religious experience that wipes away sins, bringing them closer to God and face-to-face with fellow Muslims from all corners of the earth.

Pilgrims walk at Mina tent camp during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Around two million pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

The last three days of the Hajj coincide with Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice, a joyful occasion in which Muslims around the world sacrifice sheep or cattle and distribute some of the meat to the poor. The holiday commemorates Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael on God’s command. In Christian and Jewish traditions, Abraham is willing to sacrifice his other son, Isaac.

Pilgrims walk at Mina tent camp during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Around two million pilgrims are converging on Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca for the largest Hajj since the coronavirus pandemic severely curtailed access to one of Islam’s five pillars. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

The holiday, which is held according to Islam’s lunar calendar, depending on the sighting of the moon, began Wednesday in several Middle Eastern countries and will begin Thursday in some Asian countries.

Muslims gather following the Eid al-Adha prayers, outside the iconic Haghia Sophia mosque in the historic Sultan Ahmed district of Istanbul, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha by sacrificing animals to commemorate the prophet Ibrahim’s faith in being willing to sacrifice his son. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The Saudi royal family has invested billions of dollars in infrastructure to maintain Islam’s holiest sites and to hold the annual pilgrimage, which is a major source of its legitimacy. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, traveled to Mecca on Tuesday to oversee the pilgrimage, according to state-run media.

Afghan people offer Eid al-Fitr prayers as Taliban fighters stand guard at a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Muslims celebrate the holiday to mark the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham to Christians and Jews) to sacrifice his son. During the holiday, they slaughter sheep or cattle, distribute part of the meat to the poor and eat the rest. (AP Photo/Siddiqullah Khan)

This is the first Hajj to be held without COVID-19 restrictions since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Authorities had expected some 2 million pilgrims, but official figures released late Tuesday showed that around 1.8 million were taking part in the pilgrimage. That’s considerably fewer than the nearly 2.5 million who came in 2019. Worldwide economic woes may have been a factor.

Muslim worshipers offer Eid al-Adha prayer in the mixed Arab Jewish city of Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Muslims celebrate the holiday to mark the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham to Christians and Jews) to sacrifice his son. During the holiday, they slaughter sheep or cattle, distribute part of the meat to the poor and eat the rest. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Muslim worshipers gather for Eid al-Adha prayer in Jaffa, a mixed Arab-Jewish area of Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Muslims celebrate the holiday to mark the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham to Christians and Jews) to sacrifice his son. During the holiday, they slaughter sheep or cattle, distribute part of the meat to the poor and eat the rest. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Muslim worshipers gather for Eid al-Adha prayers next to the Dome of the Rock shrine at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Muslims celebrate the holiday to mark the willingness of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham to Christians and Jews) to sacrifice his son. During the holiday, they slaughter sheep or cattle, distribute part of the meat to the poor and eat the rest. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)


Courtesy/Source: AP