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Hajj 2013 begins peacefully as hundreds of thousands stop for Friday prayers
Friday, October 11th, 2013

Hundreds of thousands of Muslims have poured into the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage as Saudi Arabia issued a stern warning against politicising the world's largest annual gathering.

People dressed in ihram, a two-piece seamless garment of white cloth, filled the area around the Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest place of worship, which houses the cube-shaped Kaaba and is witnessing massive construction work.

Just two days before the official start of the hajj, around one million faithful performed Friday prayers at the Grand Mosque as the cleric who officiated called for a peaceful and quiet hajj.

Sheikh Saleh bin Mohammed al-Taleb also called on Muslims to unite and end disputes.

Authorities stepped up preparations as police closed most entrances to the Grand Mosque to vehicles, turning traffic in the area around the site into a menacing experience.

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory once in a lifetime for all Muslims provided they are physically fit and financially capable.

"I am very excited and extremely happy. I feel I am a very lucky person that I am performing the hajj," said Hamza Suleiman, a 56-year-old civil servant from Malaysia.

Due to the scare from the MERS coronavirus, which has already killed 51 in Saudi Arabia, and high pollution from vehicles emissions, some pilgrims and security men wore face masks and also covered their heads to protect themselves from the scorching heat.

Agence France-Presse

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Muslim pilgrims, one sitting on a chair, perform the afternoon prayer in Mecca's Grand Mosque on October 10, 2013, as more than 2 million Muslims have arrived in Saudi Arabia for the hajj pilgrimage to the shrine city, the world's largest annual human assembly which peaks on October 13, according to local state media.

(FAYEZ NURELDINE - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Muslim pilgrim wears a mask during the Friday prayer at Mecca's Grand Mosque, on October 11, 2013 as hundreds of thousands of Muslims have poured into the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory once in a lifetime for all Muslims provided they are physically fit and financially capable.

(FAYEZ NURELDINE - AFP/Getty Images)
Hajj 2013 friday prayers 2 10 11 13
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Muslim pilgrims leave after performing the Friday prayer at Mecca's Grand Mosque, on October 11, 2013 as hundreds of thousands of Muslims have poured into the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory once in a lifetime for all Muslims provided they are physically fit and financially capable.

(FAYEZ NURELDINE - AFP/Getty Images)
Hajj 2013 friday prayers 3 10 11 13
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Muslim pilgrims leave after performing the Friday prayer at Mecca's Grand Mosque, on October 11, 2013 as hundreds of thousands of Muslims have poured into the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory once in a lifetime for all Muslims provided they are physically fit and financially capable.

(FAYEZ NURELDINE - AFP/Getty Images)
Hajj 2013 friday prayers 4 10 11 13
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Muslim pilgrims perform the Friday prayer at Mecca's Grand Mosque, on October 11, 2013 as hundreds of thousands of Muslims have poured into the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory once in a lifetime for all Muslims provided they are physically fit and financially capable.

(FAYEZ NURELDINE - AFP/Getty Images)
Hajj 2013 friday prayers 5 10 11 13
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Muslim pilgrims perform the Friday prayer at Mecca's Grand Mosque, on October 11, 2013 as hundreds of thousands of Muslims have poured into the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory once in a lifetime for all Muslims provided they are physically fit and financially capable.

(FAYEZ NURELDINE - AFP/Getty Images)
Hajj 2013 friday prayers 6 10 11 13
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Muslim pilgrims leave after the Friday prayer at Mecca's Grand Mosque, on October 11, 2013 as hundreds of thousands of Muslims have poured into the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage. The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory once in a lifetime for all Muslims provided they are physically fit and financially capable.

(FAYEZ NURELDINE - AFP/Getty Images)
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