Two million Muslims begin Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca

No fire at Sokoto pilgrims accommodation in Makkah official

Tens of thousands of air-conditioned tents have been set up in Mina to house pilgrims, and more than 700 Saudi cooks have been recruited to feed the faithful.

Saudi Arabia has banned 400 "illegal" intending pilgrims from entering the Holy land of Mecca, for not having Hajj permits, the country's Press Agency reports.

Saudi Arabia's High Judicial Court announced that the pilgrimage will start on August 30 and end on September 4.

Saudi kings, and the Ottoman rulers of the Hijaz region before them, all adopted the honorary title of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, a reference to sites in Mecca and Medina.

In previous years, one pilgrim cycled his way to the Hajj from the Xinjiang region of China and two others pedalled from South Africa, covering 11,000 kilometres.

The statement said that so far, more than 2,100 free medical procedures had been performed on the pilgrims.

The shrine is the point towards which Muslims around the world pray.

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This week's Haj marks Iran's return after their absence a year ago following a massive stampede in 2015 that killed around 2,300 people, including 464 Iranians.

"We have a precedent of repeated success in past years in dealing with the outbreak of corona, SARS, and swine and bird flu", he said - awareness campaigns and health requirements for pilgrims kept those outbreaks from reaching the Mecca area.

As one of the five pillars of Islam, the annual pilgrimage to Makkah, is mandatory for physically and financially capable Muslims to perform at least once in their lives.

Iran alone reported 464 deaths and subsequently accused the Saudi authorities of being "at fault" for them - a charge Saudi officials rejected.

But what do we know about the religious event and when is it taking place this year?

Pilgrims then walk or run between the mountains of Safa and Marwah seven times, which represents when Ibrahim's wife Hagar did the same when searching for water. After missing the last Hajj following the deadly stampeded of 2015, Iranians are once again participating this year for the Islamic pilgrimage. "Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), I am going to Makkah, Alhamdulillah I am going to Hajj", she said.

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