Two million Muslim pilgrims begin annual haj
MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AFP) - Some two million pilgrims poured out of the Muslim holy city of Mecca on Sunday to begin the annual haj, their numbers reduced on fears of the deadly Mers virus.
Saudi Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabia told reporters late Saturday that authorities had so far detected no cases among the pilgrims of the virus which has killed 60 people worldwide, 51 of them in Saudi Arabia.
The pilgrims moved from Mecca to nearby Mina by road, by train or on foot, the men wearing the seamless two-piece white garment tradition requires, the women covered up except for their faces and hands.
In Mina, they will pray and rest before moving on to Mount Arafat on Monday for the climax of the pilgrimage rituals.