Up to three million Muslims may have gathered for this year’s haj pilgrimage in Mecca. The local press is reporting the figure as worshippers begin the rituals that mark one of the world’s biggest displays of mass religious devotion.
After heading for a tent camp outside the holy city, pilgrims will converge on Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Mohammad is said to have given his last sermon.
Saudi Arabia has deployed some 100,000 police to help prevent the sort of deadly stampedes seen in the past and avert any militant attacks.
Roadblocks have been set up, with officers checking the passports and haj permits of those taking part.
Saudi authorities say there is no specific terror threat but so soon after the Mumbai attacks, they are taking no chances.