Muslim pilgrims arrive at holy site ahead of hajj
search
Photo essay

Muslim pilgrims arrive at holy site ahead of hajj

Tens of thousands reach Mecca’s Kaaba as Islam’s annual pilgrimage rite begins Saturday

  • In this Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 file photo, Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)
    In this Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 file photo, Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)
  • A Muslim woman from Kyrgyzstan, right, sleeps after the Fajr prayer before sunrise, outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    A Muslim woman from Kyrgyzstan, right, sleeps after the Fajr prayer before sunrise, outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • A Muslim pilgrim performs Wudu, a ritual washing before prayers, just outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    A Muslim pilgrim performs Wudu, a ritual washing before prayers, just outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • Muslim pilgrims arrive to circle the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    Muslim pilgrims arrive to circle the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • In this Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 file photo, Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and try to touch Maqam Ibrahim or The Station of Abraham, the golden glass structure at top right, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)
    In this Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 file photo, Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and try to touch Maqam Ibrahim or The Station of Abraham, the golden glass structure at top right, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)
  • An elderly Indian woman leads her husband as they circle the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    An elderly Indian woman leads her husband as they circle the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • Saudi soldiers rest before praying the Fajr, prayer before sunrise, outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, September 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    Saudi soldiers rest before praying the Fajr, prayer before sunrise, outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, September 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • A child holds on to his father as he circles the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    A child holds on to his father as he circles the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • A Saudi security guard stands as Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    A Saudi security guard stands as Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Muslim pilgrims have begun arriving at the holiest sites in Islam ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, with some weeping with their hands outstretched for a fleeting touch of the Kaaba.

The cube-shaped shrine, at the center of Mecca’s Grand Mosque, is the site the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims pray toward five times a day.

Ahead of Saturday’s start of the hajj pilgrimage, required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life, tens of thousands have come to the Kaaba to circle it, to reach out to its golden gate and to pray. To touch the Kaaba, the metaphorical house of God, offers the faithful a moment of physical contact with Islam’s holiest site on a pilgrimage intended to erase past sins.

In this Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 file photo, Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)
In this Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 file photo, Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)

On Thursday, a young boy wearing white terrycloth robes similar to those of other men gripped his father’s hand while walking past the Kaaba. Women from across the world, wearing loose-fitting clothes and forgoing makeup and perfume, joined the worshipers with their hair covered in respect.

Muslim pilgrims pray the Fajr prayer before sunrise, outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
Muslim pilgrims pray the Fajr prayer before sunrise, outside the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Some sat in quiet reflection, with the other faithful passing by them in a swirl. Workers cleaned the white tile floor surrounding the Kaaba as Saudi security forces stood guard nearby. The young supported the old as they offered supplication.

A woman circles the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
A woman circles the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Here is a selection of images by Associated Press photographer Nariman El-Mofty showing the faithful in Mecca ahead of the formal start of the hajj.

A man holds his wife as they circle the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
A man holds his wife as they circle the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press.

read more:
less
comments
more