MECCA : A Great Pilgrimage

More than a million Muslims are expected to take part in the annual hajj, or great pilgrimage, to this holy Saudi Arabian city beginning Saturday and lasting through much of the following week.

One of the five "pillars of Islam," the hajj involves an elaborate series of rites performed at the Grand Mosque of Mecca and in the immediate area of the city. It is incumbent upon all Muslims, whose health and means permit them, to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.

Mecca was the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed, founder of Islam, and his migration from there to Medina in 622 is considered the beginning of the Muslim era.

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