More than 2 million begin Haj

MECCA: More than two million pilgrims from around the globe started the Haj pilgrimage on Sunday in Saudi Arabia.
“It’s the dream of every Muslim to come here to Mecca,” said Frenchman Soliman Ben Mohri.
“It’s the ultimate journey. What worries me is the return to my normal life. For the moment, I am in a dream,” the 53-year-old said.
Every Muslim is required to complete the Haj journey to Islam’s holiest sites at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy enough and have the means to do so. Tens of thousands of security personnel have been deployed for the pilgrimage, which was struck by its worst ever disaster three years ago when around 2,300 worshippers were crushed to death in a stampede.
This year, the Saudis have launched a “Smart Haj” initiative, with apps to help pilgrims with everything from travel plans to medical care.
The interior ministry said on Saturday that the number of pilgrims arriving in Mecca had already surpassed the two million mark, mostly from abroad including large contingents from Egypt, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Wearing the simple white garb of the pilgrim, most of the faithful began moving on Sunday from Mecca to the nearby Mina valley.
They will spend the night there in fire-resistant tents in the desert, where temperatures top 40 degrees Celsius.