MAKKAH: The annual ceremony to change the Ghilaf-e-Kaaba (Kiswah) held today at the Grand Mosque of Makkah (Masjid-Al-Haram) in Saudi Arabia as more than two million faithful started converging at Mount Arafat to listen to Hajj sermon.
The Kiswah, a heavy silk cloth embroidered with Quaranic verses in golden embroidery, covers the Kaaba annually on the 9th day of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah, the day pilgrims leave for the plains of Mount Arafat during the Hajj. It is made from 670kg silk with about 150 kg pure gold used on its embroidery.
The pilgrims started heading towards Arafat after Fajr prayers where they will listen to Hajj sermon to be delivered from Masjid-e-Nimra.
They will stay at Arafat till the prayers call for Maghrib prayer.
After Azaan-e-Maghrib, the pilgrims will leave for Muzdalfa where they will offer Maghrib and Isha prayers and spend the night in the open sky.
More than two million Muslims from around the world have arrived at Islam’s holiest sites for a religious duty and an epic multi-stage journey.
Saudi authorities have mobilised vast resources in hope of avoiding a repeat of a deadly 2015 stampede that left nearly 2,300 people dead, including 464 Iranians.
The pilgrimage also comes amid a diplomatic crisis between a Saudi-led bloc of Arab countries and Qatar, accused of supporting extremist groups and being too close to Riyadh’s arch-rival Tehran.
A blockade imposed on Qatar since June 5 has seen sea and air links shut down, preventing many Qataris from making hajj, although Riyadh relaxed entry restrictions across its land border with the emirate two weeks before the pilgrimage.
Saudi authorities say they are ready for any eventuality.
Interior ministry spokesman General Mansour al-Turki said more than 100,000 security personnel have been deployed at various sites along the hajj route.