More than two million Muslim pilgrims are passing through Mount Arafat on the way to the holy city of Mecca for the Haj. Saudi Arabia has deployed 60,000 security men in an effort to avoid deadly stampedes or any attacks by militants fighting the U.S.-allied Saudi royals.
Tragedy has already struck this year’s pilgrimage. At least 76 people died when a hostel collapsed last Thursday. Saudi officials are also braced for a deadly outbreak of bird flu after health experts warned the huge crowds could create the conditions for a pandemic strain to emerge.
The gruelling five-day haj is a duty for every Muslim at least once in their lifetime. The government has reorganised access to the site at Mena, where pilgrims will stay for three days from tomorrow, and promised to remove squatters who often camp there.