RELIGION

A Glimpse At Hajj, As Millions Of Muslim Pilgrims Arrive In Mecca

Devout Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.
Muslim pilgrims touch the golden doors of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city
Muslim pilgrims touch the golden doors of the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Sept 6.

The annual hajj pilgrimage is one of the world’s largest gatherings, as some two million people flock to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to participate in one of Islam’s five pillars of faith.

The pilgrimage falls between Sept. 9-14, though Muslims from around the world typically begin arriving in Mecca in the days and weeks leading up to the official start date.

It’s considered an obligation for observant Muslims to undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able.

During the pilgrimage, Muslims from all over the world gather together for five days to pray as one community and celebrate the history of their faith. From the Masjid Al Haram, or Grand Mosque, complex to the hills of Mina, the rites include circling the Kaaba seven times and visiting sites of historical and religious importance.

The holiday of Eid al-Adha takes place several days into hajj and commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael in obedience of God.

Scroll down for a peek at what goes on during hajj and how pilgrims perform the sacred rites:

  • A general view of Muslim pilgrims from all around the world circling around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in the Saudi city
    AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images
    A general view of Muslim pilgrims from all around the world circling around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in the Saudi city of Mecca on Sept. 9.
  • Muslim pilgrims touch Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on Sept. 6.
    AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images
    Muslim pilgrims touch Islam's holiest shrine, the Kaaba, at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on Sept. 6.
  • Muslim pilgrims walk in the streets of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Sept. 6.
    AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images
    Muslim pilgrims walk in the streets of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Sept. 6.
  • A shopkeeper shows his products to Muslim pilgrims in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca, on Sept. 8
    AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images
    A shopkeeper shows his products to Muslim pilgrims in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca, on Sept. 8
  • A Saudi official adjusts an electronic bracelet that Saudi authorities are giving to pilgrims ahead of the annual Hajj Muslim
    AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images
    A Saudi official adjusts an electronic bracelet that Saudi authorities are giving to pilgrims ahead of the annual Hajj Muslim pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca on Sept. 8.
  • Muslim pilgrims from all around the world circle around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in the Saudi city of Mecca.
    AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images
    Muslim pilgrims from all around the world circle around the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, in the Saudi city of Mecca.
  • Kiswah, the cloth that covers the Kaaba, is being prepared with 670 kg pure silk, 120 kg gold and silver in Mecca, Saudi Arab
    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    Kiswah, the cloth that covers the Kaaba, is being prepared with 670 kg pure silk, 120 kg gold and silver in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Sept. 7.
  • Muslim pilgrims take a selfie as they walk out following the last prayer of the day, leaving the the Grand Mosque in the Saud
    AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images
    Muslim pilgrims take a selfie as they walk out following the last prayer of the day, leaving the the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on Sept. 7.
  • A Muslim pilgrim takes a selfie in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on Sept. 8.
    AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images
    A Muslim pilgrim takes a selfie in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, on Sept. 8.
  • Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, located in the center of the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mo
    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, located in the center of the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Sept. 7.
  • A Muslim pilgrim holds a parasol as she walks in the streets of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Sept. 6.
    AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images
    A Muslim pilgrim holds a parasol as she walks in the streets of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Sept. 6.
  • Muslim pilgrims visit Mount Arafat, also called Jabal al-Rahmah (Mount of Mercy), as they take part in the hajj rituals in Me
    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    Muslim pilgrims visit Mount Arafat, also called Jabal al-Rahmah (Mount of Mercy), as they take part in the hajj rituals in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Sept. 3.
  • Muslim pilgrims visit Mount Arafat, also called Jabal al-Rahmah (Mount of Mercy).
    Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    Muslim pilgrims visit Mount Arafat, also called Jabal al-Rahmah (Mount of Mercy).
  • Muslim pilgrims walk in the streets of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Sept. 6.
    AHMAD GHARABLI via Getty Images
    Muslim pilgrims walk in the streets of Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Sept. 6.
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Mecca's Transformation Over The Decades
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