More than one million will arrive in Mecca for al-Haj rituals
Saudi Arabia, Economics, 1/13/2005
Some 1.2 million pilgrims coming from outside Saudi Arabia and other hundreds of thousands from inside it started arriving in Mecca to perform al-Haj rituals whose procedures will start in one week.
Local Saudi dailies said that some 1.070 million pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom. The Saudi authorities had announced it had issued 1.2 entry visas for pilgrims.
Al-Haj rituals start on January 19 and are concluded on the second or third days of al-Tashriq (taking the East direction), which falls on the third or fourth day of Eid al-Adha.
Saudi Arabia announced officially that Thursday January 20 is the day of standing at Arafah ( mountain ) and the Friday is the first day of Eid al-Adha al-Mubarak.
A statement issued by the higher Judiciary council said that "today, Wednesday is the first day of Zee al-Hijja month, and therefore standing on Arafah mountain will be on Thursday, the 9th of Zee al-Hijja and al-Adha Eid on Friday, January 21, 2005." Some 1.8 million performed their al-Haj rituals in 2004 including 473,000 from inside Saudi Arabia.
In certain cases al-Haj season witnesses bloody incidents because of the jam. In 2004 some 251 pilgrims died in accidents in Mona mountain near Mecca during carrying out "stone throwing" ritual. Such incidents pushed the Saudi King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz to declare an ambitious project to raise the capacity of the "stone throwing" place to be fitted for 500,000 persons instead of 160,000.
Due to the increased number of pilgrims, the kingdom is working to raise the capacity of hosting pilgrims. Estimates indicate that the number of pilgrims will be 3 million within five years and 5.3 million to 7.3 million within ten years.
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