KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Thousands of Malaysian children took part in a practice run for the Muslim haj pilgrimage on Monday (July 24), walking round a model of the holy Kaaba shrine under the tropical sun.
About 4,000 six-year-olds, dressed in white robes of the kind worn by pilgrims and carrying green bags, participated in the "Little Haj" event in a field outside the capital Kuala Lumpur.
The Kaaba is a square building covered in a veil located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the holiest shrine in Islam. Part of the haj involves walking round the Kaaba.
Khairizah Kamaruddin, a spokesman for the organisers, said the event was aimed at getting youngsters ready to perform the annual haj at a future date.
"The aim of this simulation is to educate young Muslims of the importance of the haj and remove any fear or anxiety when they perform the actual rites around the crowded Kaaba," Ms Khairizah told AFP. "The children were so excited, they are now looking forward to conducting the actual haj pilgrimage."
The children taking part in the "Little Haj" also threw pebbles at a wall during a practice version of the "stoning of the devil", another of the haj rituals.
Predominantly Muslim Malaysia sends some 27,000 pilgrims to perform the haj every year.
The haj is one of the five pillars of Islam, which capable Muslims must perform at least once, and marks the spiritual peak of their lives.