MAKKAH - A sea of white-robed pilgrims from all corners of the world began the first leg of the soul-searching journey of hajj as they flooded the streets to the tent city of Mina where they ready themselves for the climax of their pilgrimage when they descend Mount `Arafat.
"I am so excited that I finally managed to perform the hajj and come to the areas that the Prophet (Muhammad) had once been to," Egyptian Mustafa Abu el-Wafa, who decided to walk the 10-kilometre distance to Mina despite the heat and humidity, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Sunday, October 13.
Nearly two million pilgrims embarked on their slow and steady trek to Mina on Sunday night in the first leg of their five-day journey.
A plan ensuring the safety of pilgrims has been arranged by a committee consisting of members of the hajj ministry, in collaboration with the executive committee responsible for monitoring the transfer of pilgrims and the General Cars Syndicate.
Arrange by the Saudi officials, the transfer processes ensures the smooth and safe arrival of the pilgrims to the sites of Mina and Arafat.
Shuttle busses will serve 563,000 pilgrims from Turkey, Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Iran, while regular transportation will be serving the pilgrims from South Asia and the Arab states, Al Arabiya News reported.
Spirituality and peace were in the air in the sprawling tent city which is surrounded by (Mountain of Light) and other hills, as more pilgrims poured in with every hour, each group reverberating with chants of Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik (O God, here I am answering your call).
Once in their fireproof tents, masses of faithful, clad in the white ihram garb, busy themselves reciting the Noble Qur'an and praying.
Many try to catch some sleep -- after a tiring journey from Makkah that on average takes five hours - as they ready for the climax of their ultimate spiritual experience.
On Monday morning, the pilgrims will descend the Mount `Arafat where Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) delivered his last sermon more than 14 centuries ago.
The pilgrims then will return to Mina after spending the night in Muzdalifah.
They will take part in the symbolic stoning of the devil at Jamrat Al-Aqaba and sacrifice animals to mark the four-day `Eid Al-Adha, which starts Tuesday.
Muslims from around the world pour to Makkah every year to perform hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam.
Hajj consists of several ceremonies, which are meant to symbolize the essential concepts of the Islamic faith, and to commemorate the trials of Prophet Abraham and his family.
Every able-bodied adult Muslim who can financially afford the trip must perform hajj at least once in a lifetime.