Some two million Muslim pilgrims begin the annual Hajj pilgrimage by pouring into the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
The pilgrims, shrouded in white plain garments, spend most of the day in areas near Mount Arafat, praying to God and asking for forgiveness. A ceremony known as the Disavowal of Disbelievers, intended to renounce the enemies of Islam, also began on Monday. Later in the day, the pilgrims will leave Arafat and move to the plains of Mina to conduct the rest of the rituals. The peak of the rites - Eid al-Adha - will fall on Tuesday. The Eid is perceived to be one of the most important days in Islam. Meanwhile, as the pilgrims leave the Holy city of Mecca, city officials have begun the annual ceremony of changing the black cover of Ka’aba. They change the previous cover with a new one and wash the building with pure rose water. More than 100,000 troops have been deployed to Mecca to ensure the safety of the pilgrims. The number has been reduced by about one million since last year, over fears of outbreak of a deadly virus, known as MERS, as well as construction projects in Mecca. All the pilgrims who enter Mecca should undertake a minor Hajj before performing their major Hajj, which began on October 13. The major Hajj is performed during a five-day period from the 8th through the 12th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the last month of the Muslim lunar calendar. The Hajj pilgrimage is obligatory for all Muslims once in their lifetime if they are able both physically and financially. The teachings of Hajj are also very significant. Muslims remember that they are not joined together on the basis of color or race, but on the basis of belief in God and His messenger.