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‘Here I am, O Lord!’

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Hajj pilgrims began arriving at Mount Arafat on Wednesday to stand in prayer till sunset in one of the most important days of the Islamic calendar. Saudi authorities have prepared an integrated traffic plan to help ease the pilgrims’ path from the tent city of Mina to Mount Arafat, a 14.4km trek. The first train trips from Mina to Arafat also begun transporting pilgrim at dawn on Wednesday, and will continue until the completion of all pilgrims to the next site.

Authorities estimate 1.38 million pilgrims will descend to the plains of Arafat this year. It’s not only pilgrims who will mark the day but also Muslims from around the globe who are fasting in solidarity with hujjaj and to cleanse their own sins.

It was on this day that Pophet Mohammad (pbuh) have his farewell sermon, in 632 AD according to the Gregorian calendar, addressing around 114,000 pilgrims at the time. Mount Arafat holds significant value to Muslims given that it is there that Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) gave his last sermon.

The valley of Mina  reverberated on Tuesday with the Talbiya “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik…” (Here I am, O Lord!) as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims arrived in the Tent City where 160,000 fire-proof tents have been readied to accommodate them.

More than 20,000 buses were used to transport the pilgrims to Mina, which witnessed a 20-minute drizzle Monday evening.

The Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME) expects the weather in Makkah and holy sites to be partly cloudy with thunderous clouds that may cause rains. There may be winds with speed of 15-40 km per hour and humidity ranging between 25 and 65 degrees. The PME expects temperature on Wednesday to be 31-43 degree Celsius in Mina, 31-43 degrees in Arafat and 31-44 degrees in Muzdalifah.

The government of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has provided the best possible services and facilities for pilgrims to perform their rituals with ease and comfort.

Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, deputy premier, minister of interior and chairman of the Supreme Haj Committee, announced on Tuesday the completion of pilgrims’ arrival in the Kingdom.

He said 1,384,941 pilgrims from 164 countries arrived for the journey of a lifetime. Of them, 750,564 are men, representing 54 percent, and 634,377 are women.

Faisal Al-Zahrani, spokesman of the Ministry of Health, said the health situation of pilgrims is quite satisfying as no epidemic or quarantine cases have been reported.

He said there are 25 hospitals — six in Mina, two in Arafat, seven in Makkah, nine in Madinah in addition to King Abdullah Medical City in Makkah — for the service of the pilgrims.

Field medical and emergency services are supported by 180 ambulance cars. Medical field services will accompany the pilgrims from Mina to Arafat and when they return from Arafat to Muzdalifah and back to Mina.

“It is a gift from Allah that He has chosen us to come here,” said Walaa Ali, a 35-year-old Egyptian pilgrim with tears in her eyes. “I am so happy to be here.”

The first day of Haj is known as Tarwiah Day, when pilgrims traditionally watered their animals and stocked water for their trip to Mount Arafat, about 10 kilometers (six miles) southeast of Mina.

Nowadays pilgrims spend their time in Mina in prayer and reciting the Holy Qur’an.

With the start of Haj, pilgrims enter the stage of Ihram — a state of purity in which they must not wear perfume, cut their nails, or trim their hair or beards.

During Ihram, men wear a seamless two-piece shroud-like white garment, emphasising unity regardless of social status or nationality. Women must wear loose dresses exposing only their faces and hands. SAUDI GAZETTE

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