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Hajj : 5 Things You Didn’t Know About the Muslim Pilgrimage

5 Things You Didn't Know About the Muslim Pilgrimage © Ali Mansuri

5 Things You Didn't Know About the Muslim Pilgrimage © Ali Mansuri

This Sunday began the pilgrimage to Mecca for the millions of Muslims who had the privilege to visit the holy city of Saudi Arabia. For several days, they will perform the Hajj rituals between the Kaaba, Mount Arafat and Mina, align to the celebrations of Eid al-Adha which begins on Tuesday.

5. A pre-islamic tradition

This tradition goes back to the pre-Islamic period. Mecca was then an important crossroads for caravans. In 632, the Prophet Muhammad performed a pilgrim in the city. Thus, Hajj became one of the five pillars of Islam along with the five daily prayers, the annuals alms, the Ramadan fast and the profession of faith. It is an obligation that every Muslim should do, at least once in his life, if he can afford doing it.

4. Half a million pilgrims are from Southeastern Asia

More than half a million of them usually come from Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh
The number of pilgrims entering the holy city, whose entry is exclusively allowed to Muslims, is strictly supervised by the Saudi authorities who impose country quotas relying on the number of Muslims living there. This year, the Saudi government have announced that the largest contingents come from Egypt, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sudan.

3. 2013, a year to remember

20 million de liters of water from the Zamzam Well have been distributed and over a million sheeps were sacrificed…
These figures date from 2014. That year, the number of pilgrims who came to Mecca for the Hajj reached the record of 3 million. However, Saudi Arabia has imposed restrictions in recent years and has reduced quotas by almost 20% in order to carry out major development work to enlarge the prayer areas.

80% of the pilgrims are not Arabic speakers

The supervision of the pilgrims and their orientation in the various places where they must go during 5- to 6-day long pilgrimage represents a major challenge for the Saudi authorities. Alongside the 60,000 security agents and the 22,000 medical and paramedical staff deployed, many translators are present to cover a dozen languages in total. In addition, the event is now supervised by digital and high technologies with e plethora of applications developed to provide instructions and lead visitors to services such as emergency care.

20 million pilgrims by 2020

Thanks to the democratization of transport, they are always they are more and more to gather under torrid temperatures exceeding on average 40°C. Given that each foreign pilgrim spends an average of $4,500, religious tourism is the country’s second largest source of income, after oil. Adding the Hajj and Umrah – the small pilgrimage -, Saudi Arabia welcomes nearly 9 million pilgrims each year, a figure that could reach 20 million by 2002 with revenues estimated at nearly $90 billion for the country.