Pilgrims pray for Arab Spring states as haj rituals peak
MOUNT ARAFAT (AFP) - Vast crowds of Muslim pilgrims flocked to Mount Arafat on Thursday to perform the main haj rites, with those from Arab Spring states praying fervently for freedom and stability.
Men, women, and children from 189 countries streamed from dawn to the site in western Saudi Arabia, some setting up small colourful tents in which they slept and prayed.
Beggars and street vendors also dotted the roads searching for generous souls among the 2.5 million believers expected to converge on the plain for the most important rituals of the five-day haj.
According to Mecca governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, around 1.7 million people had travelled from abroad for the pilgrimage, many of them from Middle Eastern countries which have been shaken by Arab Spring uprisings.