Muslim pilgrims cast stones at a pillar symbolising the stoning of Satan, the last rite of the Hajj, on the first day of Eid Al Adha, in Mina.
Nearly 2.5 million Muslims gathered at Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat on Saturday for a vigil to atone for their sins, and then descended to Muzdalifa for the final stages of the annual Hajj pilgrimage amid summer heat and regional tensions.
Pilgrims clad in white robes signifying a state of purity spent the night in a sprawling encampment around the hill where Islam holds that God tested Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son Ismail. It is also where Prophet Mohammad gave his last sermon.
Other worshippers who had been praying in the nearby Mina area ascended in buses or on foot from before dawn. Some carried food, carpets for camping and fans to keep cool as temperatures rose towards 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) before heavy rains and lightning erupted.
Zaid Abdullah, a 30-year-old Yemeni who works in a supermarket in Saudi Arabia, said he was praying for his own country, where war has killed tens of thousands of people and caused the world's worse humanitarian crisis, and for Muslims around the globe.
"We can tolerate the heat because our sins are greater than that," he said as he approached the granite hill also known as the Mount of Mercy. "We ask God to alleviate the heat of the hereafter. As for the heat of this life, we can bear it."
Hamood Ismail and his wife Raghdaa travelled from Syria, through Turkey, while taxi driver Khaled Maatouq came from Libya. They all said they were seeking an end to the suffering in their homelands which have been torn apart by conflict.
For others, the pilgrimage is a form of relief. Egyptian merchant Ramadan al-Jeedi said he was grateful to accompany his mother after his father died last year.
"It's the greatest feeling, to feel that God the almighty chose us to be in this place," he said.
Nadzmi Maruji Naid from the Philippines said he felt comfortable but a little nervous about making Hajj for the first time: "God willing, everyone here will be accepted by Allah."
Some 2.49 million pilgrims, mostly from abroad, have arrived for the five-day ritual, a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.
Among them are 200 survivors and relatives of victims of the attacks on two New Zealand mosques in March.
After spending the day on Mount Arafat, the pilgrims moved at sunset to the plain of Muzdalifa to gather pebbles to throw at stone columns symbolising the devil at Jamarat on Sunday, which marks the first day of Eid al-Adha, or the feast of sacrifice.
The Hajj, which begins on Wednesday, normally draws around 2.5 million people for five intense days of worship in one of the world's largest gatherings of people from around the world.
"Holding the ritual in the shadow of this pandemic... required reducing the numbers of pilgrims, but it obliged various official agencies to put in double efforts," 84-year-old King Salman said in a speech.
More than 2 million pilgrims were gathered in the Holy City of Makkah in Saudi Arabia on Friday to perform initial rites of the Hajj.
Muslims around the world are celebrating the Eid Al Adha religious holiday, which in Arabic literally means the "festival of the sacrifice" and marks the end of Hajj, the five-day pilgrimage Muslims undertake to cleanse the soul of sins and instil a sense of equality and brotherhood among them.
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