1.4 million pilgrims begin to leave Saudi Arabia after Haj
AFP reports that approximately 1.4 million Muslim pilgrims from 188 countries started leaving Saudi Arabia at the end of a largely incident-free hajj.
Haj officially comes to a close on Friday. However, pilgrims are allowed to leave after the ritual stoning of the devil. As soon as pilgrims woke up on Thursday, they began stoning three concrete structures in Mina – an emulation of the three spots where Prophet Abraham stoned the devil in three spots as he tried to dissuade the prophet from sacrificing his son Ishmael.
Following the stoning of the devil, pilgrims went round the Ka’aba to perform the final tawaf. Muslims believe that the Ka’aba was built by prophet Abraham 4,000 years ago.
After the ceremony, pilgrims were seen leaving their hotels to make the 60 kilometer journey to Jeddah airport.
Saudi Arabia deployed over 100,000 troops and 5,000 security cameras to maintain security and order during the haj. The number of pilgrims that attended Haj in 2013 was two million – a sharp decrease from the 3.2 million pilgrims who attended the haj in 2012.
There were fears of the MERS virus prior to the Haj; however, the 2013 haj passed off smoothly without incident.