Up to two million Muslims are descending on Mecca for the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. The five day event, which gets underway today, is always a security headache for hosts Saudi Arabia, especially, in the light of current world events, as both Shia and Sunni Muslims attend.
But that doesn’t deter pilgrims from all over the world from making the trip. “Islam is a religion of peace,” said one pilgrim. “Even if we go to war we respect old people, and trees, and women and children.”
This is one of the most important Muslim rites. Those arriving early will get a mat in the mosque by the Kaaba stone. Others will have to pray on the street or in shopping malls.
The President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is attending this year.