Costly new safety measures have been implemented to prevent stampedes such as the one that afflicted the last Hajj, in which at least 345 pilgrims, including three Britons, died during the ritual stoning of a pillar representing the devil.
A Saudi team went to Munich to learn from the Germans’ experience of managing hordes of football fans during the World Cup, and the Kingdom has spent $1 billion (£500 billion) improving safety at the stoning site in Mina.
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Blogging voices from Mecca
- ‘Today has been a momentous day for many of us as our Hajj has now well and truly begun. It was a great feeling to be doing what Allah has commanded all Muslims do; especially when we were surrounded by so many people from so many different backgrounds, each with the same aim’.
- ‘In order to seek Allah’s forgiveness we need to be fully aware of our own faults so that we can repent and try and ensure that we change our habits from now on. This is not an easy task, but it is essential if our haj is to be accepted’.
- ‘I still can’t believe I’m going to haj. I’ve been on cloud nine ever since Dad confirmed the visa. Time doesn’t seem to move — I can’t eat, sleep or concentrate on anything . . . It truly is an invaluable gift, the best thing a father can give his daughter’.
- ‘Spoke to my brother last night. They were getting ready to set off. Mum and him have not been well and with mum in a wheelchair, it’s a daunting task. Inshallah, Allah will make it easy for them’.
- ‘The sighting of the Ka’bah was overwhelming. I was awestruck by its magnificence; its beauty cannot be described in any other way except by pure experience of its presence. Tears streamed down my face as I asked for the Razamandi (pleasure) of my Lord’.