[QODLink]
Middle East
Hajj Diary: Secure supplication
Saudi interior ministry leaves nothing to chance as three million pilgrims converge on Mecca.
Last Modified: 12 Dec 2008 10:41 GMT

Pilgrims pray around the Kaaba in Mecca's Grand Mosque. The Kaaba contains the holy Black Stone which is believed to be the only piece remaining from an altar built by Abraham [AFP]

"Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar" - God is Great, God is Great. I wake up to the sound of the call to prayer on my second day in Mecca.

It is five in the morning when I leave my hotel to go to pray at the Grand Mosque, but you would never know it was so early.

The streets are overflowing. People walk briskly as they compete to secure their place as close as possible to the Kaaba, the building inside the Grand Mosque towards which all Muslims around the world pray.

Suddenly, amidst all the hustle and bustle, the voice of the imam - the prayer leader - echoes throughout. The prayer has started.

As if choreographed, the millions of pilgrims form almost perfect rows, all facing in the same direction.

And then: silence.

All that can be heard is the voice of the imam. No one talks, no sound of traffic, not another noise.

The order and discipline in which the pilgrims lined up to perform the prayer is astounding.

High alert

Over breakfast we decide that we will go to film the Saudi security forces as they demonstrate the preparations and precautions taken in advance of the largest gathering on earth.

In depth

Map - Tracking Hajj

Hajj Diary
Day 1: Arriving in Mecca
Day 2: Secure supplication
Day 3: A hard day's work
Day 4: Destination Arafat
Day 5: Eid Reflections
Day 6: Time to head home

Videos
Mecca prepares for Hajj
Gazans denied pilgrimage
Saudi ramps up security
According to the ministry of interior, 100,000 security and safety personnel have been deployed in Mecca alone, the largest deployment in history.

From special services to ensuring no breach of security takes place, to mobile hospitals and thousands of fire fighters, it's apparent that the Saudis are determined not to allow disasters of past Hajj be repeated.

And while it is inevitable that three million people gathered anywhere makes it almost impossible to prevent any casualties or fatal incidents, one must admire the effort made by the authorities in Mecca this year.

Having said that, the real test is still to come, when the pilgrims follow Abraham's footsteps, and throw seven pebbles in Mina, where it is believed the Devil tried to dissuade Abraham from obeying God.

A stampede a few years ago resulted in hundreds of pilgrims dying during this ritual.

Affinity and familiarity

The sun had set by the time we returned from our shoot.

The lighting of the Grand Mosque cast a glow across its dark surroundings.

The affinity and familiarity I feel towards it still surprises me.

I take a walk around. Everywhere I look what I see makes me gasp.

Thousands of pilgrims lie asleep on the grounds of the mosque.

Muslims believe that if one performs Hajj, he or she returns sinless, like a baby.

But the rituals are also meant to remind the believer that all humanity is equal and that while we may be divided through race, class or circumstance in this world, we will all face our Creator in the hereafter.

It is only day two but these ideals and manifestations have become overwhelmingly apparent here in Mecca.

Source:
Al Jazeera
Topics in this article
City
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
More than 400 gaming dens operate on native lands, but critics say social ills and inequality stack the deck.
The Palestinian president is expected to address the UN with a new proposal for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Nearly 1,200 aboriginal females have been killed or disappeared over 30 years with little justice served, critics say.
Ethnic violence has wracked China's restive Xinjiang region, leading to a tight government clampdown.
Malay artists revitalise the art of puppeteering by fusing tradition with modern characters such as Darth Vader.