Record Mecca Pilgrimage Ends

Associated Press

On the most sacred day of the Islamic calendar, a record 2.5 million Muslims attended prayers at Mt. Arafat near Mecca, bringing the annual pilgrimage to the faith's holiest shrine to a close Friday.

Emulating a trek made by the Prophet Mohammed, the 7th-Century father of the faith, the pilgrims spent Thursday night in the tent city at Mina. At dawn Friday, they climbed the granite hill en masse to pray in unison.

Draped in seamless white garb, the pilgrims came from around the world and from different segments of society. Princes and paupers stood shoulder to shoulder to recite prayers in Arabic, the language of the Koran.

Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed, is required of every able-bodied Muslim at least once in a lifetime. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, as dictated by the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

Officials said a record 2.5 million pilgrims were present this year for the hajj. There have never been more than 2 million pilgrims in years past.

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