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Over a Million Pilgrims Pray on Mount Arafat in Hajj Climax

Riyadh, June 15: More than 1.5 million Muslims gathered on Mount Arafat on Saturday, enduring soaring temperatures in the pinnacle and most challenging day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Pilgrims from around the world climbed the 70-meter (230-feet) hill, located approximately 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Mecca. This site is historically significant as the place where the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have delivered his final sermon.

With desert summer temperatures expected to reach 43 degrees Celsius (109.4 degrees Fahrenheit), the day posed significant challenges, particularly for the elderly, as they engaged in prayer and recitation of the Koran.

Abraman Hawa, a 26-year-old pilgrim from Ghana, remarked on the heat, “The Hajj is not easy because it is very hot. We have sun… but it is not as hot. But I will pray to Allah at Arafat, because I need his support.”

Saudi authorities have advised pilgrims to stay hydrated and shield themselves from the sun. Due to the prohibition on men wearing hats, many pilgrims used umbrellas for protection.

Last year, over 10,000 heat-related illnesses were recorded, with 10 percent being heat stroke cases, a Saudi official informed AFP. The impact of climate change on the Hajj is significant, with a study noting regional temperatures rising by 0.4 degrees Celsius each decade.

Despite the intense heat, 60-year-old Pakistani pilgrim Mohammed Farouk emphasized the spiritual significance of the pilgrimage, stating, “The Hajj is very important for me as a Muslim.”

After their prayers on Mount Arafat, the pilgrims will proceed to Muzdalifah to collect pebbles for the symbolic “stoning of the devil” ritual in Mina on Sunday. The Hajj retraces the path of the Prophet Mohammed’s final pilgrimage approximately 1,400 years ago.

The pilgrimage is not only a spiritual journey but also a major financial boon for Saudi Arabia, which is expanding its religious tourism sector to lessen its economic dependence on oil. Last year, the Kingdom welcomed over 1.8 million Hajj pilgrims, 90 percent of whom came from abroad, and 13.5 million Umrah pilgrims, with a goal to reach 30 million by 2030. This year’s Hajj unfolds amidst the backdrop of ongoing regional conflicts, notably the Gaza war, which remains a poignant issue for many in the Muslim world. –(AFP)

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