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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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