Mina: Nearly two million pilgrims from across the world observed the Day of Arafat, an occasion for repentance and supplication considered as the pinnacle of the annual Haj pilgrimage.
On Sunday, the worshipers began day-long prayers and recitals of the Holy Quran on a rocky hill known as Mount Arafat or Mount of Mercy, east of the Saudi city of Mekkha, where Prophet Muhammed gave his last Haj sermon.
The Day of Arafat falls on Dhu al-Hijah 9, the final month in the Islamic calendar. It comes a day before Eid al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice).
After preliminary rituals this week at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the pilgrims moved eastwards on Saturday to Mina neighbourhood and then several kilometers further to Mount Arafat.
The valley of Mina reverberated with Talbiya -- a conviction that they intend to perform the Hajj only for the glory of Allah.
"It's an indescribable feeling. You have to live it to understand," Saudi Gazette quoted Hassan Mohammed, 60, from Egypt.
"People come from every country of the world, talk every language of the world, and meet here in one place under one banner, the profession of the Muslim faith," said Ashraf Zalat, 43, also from Egypt.
From Arafat, the pilgrims will proceed to Muzdalifa where they will offer the Maghreb and Isha prayers together and rest at night.
In Muzdalifa, they will collect pebbles to stone the Satan in Mina. They will come back to Mina early Monday to complete their Haj rituals, including sacrifice of animals, shaving their hair, getting out of the state of Ihram and going to Makkah for Tawaf Al-Ifadah, which is an important pillar of Haj rites.
For the first time in more than three decades, Saudi Arabia's top Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh did not deliver this year's Haj sermon.
The Haj sermon was delivered by Saleh bin Humaid, who previously served as chairman of the Shoura Council and was appointed to the Supreme Judicial Council.
Last year, a tragic incident took place when two large masses of pilgrims converged at a crossroads during the symbolic ceremony of the stoning of Satan in Jamarat.
Saudi Arabia claims that nearly 770 people were killed in the stampede. However, Iran, which had the greatest number of deaths among foreign nationals, has put the death toll at about 4,700.
The Haj is one of the five pillars of the holy faith of Islam that every able-bodied and financially able Muslim is obliged to undertake during lifetime.