Millions of Muslims have gathered in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the Hajj. Some have travelled across the world to take part in one of the most sacred rituals of the Islamic religion. The focus of their pilgrimage is the Kaaba – an enormous stone in the Grand Mosque. Muslims believe it stands on the site of the world’s first house of worship. At least once during their visit, they will walk around it in an anti-clockwise direction.
Over the next five days they will follow in the footsteps of the prophet Muhammad along a route he supposedly trod 1,400 years ago. This year the authorities say they have put safety measures in place to prevent the stampedes that killed hundreds of people in the past. Almost 400 people were crushed in January due to overcrowding on the bridge of Jamarat. It is a key location of the third day of the Hajj where pilgrims carry out a devil-stoning ritual.
The government has begun expanding it into four storeys to ease the bottleneck. Thirty five thousand security staff have also been deployed along the route. Saudi authorities hope this will help the pilgrims express their religious devotion in peace from the first stop, the tent city of Mina, until the very end of the Hajj.