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Millions Visit Saudi Arabia for the Hajj

Mecca, Saudi Arabia —(Map)

Over the last five days, more than two million people have completed the hajj – the trip to Mecca, Saudi Arabia that every Muslim person is supposed to do once in their lifetime.

Muslims are people whose religion is Islam. There are around 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. That’s close to 25% of all the people on the planet.

This is the Grand Mosque. In the center, the black cube of the Kaaba can be seen.
Over two million people came to Mecca for the hajj this year.
This is the Grand Mosque. In the center, the black cube of the Kaaba can be seen.
This picture is from 2009.
(Source: Al Jazeera English, via Flickr.com.)

Islam was started around 1,400 years ago by Muhammad, who was born in Mecca. Now, one of the important parts of the religion is for Muslims to make a trip to Mecca if they can. This trip is called the “hajj”.

The timing for the hajj changes every year. This year it started on August 19 and ends today.

Because there are so many Muslims in the world and the hajj is so important, Mecca is always very crowded during the hajj. This year there are over two million people visiting.

Visitors move between different religious places over the five days. Keeping everyone safe is a challenge. In 2015, some groups got scared and over 2,000 people were killed as the huge crowds ran.

Security officers monitoring the hajj.
Making sure everyone is safe during the hajj is a big job.
Saudi Arabia is using around 130,000 police, soldiers, and medical workers.
(Source: Al Jazeera English, via Flickr.com.)

This year, Saudi Arabia is using around 130,000 police, soldiers, and medical workers to help keep people safe. They are also watching things from above using drones – small aircraft that can be controlled from the ground.

During the hajj, Muslims act out some of the events that are important to the history of Islam.

The Kaaba
The Kaaba is Islam’s most important religious building.
It is inside the Grand Mosque.
(Source: Al Jazeera English, via Flickr.com.)

In some of the hajj activities, visitors walk around the Kaaba. The Kaaba is a black building in the shape of a cube. It is inside a huge open air building called the Grand Mosque. A mosque is an Islamic religious building, like a church. The Kaaba is Islam’s most important religious building.

Man throwing rock against stone wall as part of "stoning the devil" during the hajj.
“Stoning the devil” is one part of the hajj.
It is a symbol of fighting against evil.
(Source: Fadi El Binni of Al Jazeera English, via Wikimedia Commons.)

One important event is called “stoning the devil”. Hajj visitors throw small stones at a large rock wall. This action is a symbol for fighting off evil.

Crowds of hajj pilgrims being sprayed with mist.
The temperatures have gotten as high as 111° Fahrenheit (44° Celsius)
In some places the crowds are sprayed with mist to keep them cool.
(Source: Al Jazeera English, via Flickr.com.)

The hajj can be hard and tiring. Over the last five days, temperatures have gotten as hot as 111° Fahrenheit (44° Celsius). To help people keep cool, in some places the crowds are sprayed with mist.

Since the hajj takes several days, people need a place to sleep. Some people sleep in hotels. The government has created a whole “city” of tents for the visitors. Many people simply sleep outside.

Mina, Saudi Arabia's "tent city".
Saudia Arabia has created a whole “city” of tents for the visitors
(Source: Mubeen Rahman, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Two million people can create a lot of garbage. By the end of the hajj, there is usually trash everywhere. Over 92,610,000 pounds (42,000,000 kilograms) of trash are thrown away during the hajj. This year, the government has hired 13,000 people to help manage the trash and recycling. The government hopes to cut down the amount of garbage and recycle more in the future.

Garbage left after the hajj.
Two million people create a lot of garbage during the hajj.
Saudi Arabia hired 13,000 people to help with the trash.
The country plans to recycle more in the future.
(Source: Al Jazeera English, via Flickr.com.)

The hajj is a religious event, but it is also big business for Saudi Arabia. The visitors all need to eat and drink and pay for transportation. The area around the Kaaba is filled with fancy hotels.

Saudi Arabia is trying to make changes so that more people can visit during the hajj. They hope to have 5 million people for the hajj by 2020.

Mecca, Saudi Arabia


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