Record Breaking Haj May Get Dangerous With Temperature Rising

Massive haj pilgrimage, held amid the stifling summer heat, drew hundreds of millions of Muslim pilgrims to Mount Arafat on Tuesday.

Tuesday saw the culmination of a perhaps record-breaking haj pilgrimage that was conducted in the oppressive summer heat when many thousands of Muslim pilgrims thronged Saudi Arabia’s, Mount Arafat.

Groups of believers read lines from the Quran as dawn dawned on the rocky hilltop in which the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is thought to have delivered his last sermon.

After three years of Covid restrictions, the yearly pilgrimage, one of Islam’s five pillars, maybe the largest on record, according to officials. The ceremony is the culmination of the annual journey.

The haj, one of the greatest religious gatherings in the world and an indicator of credibility for the royal rulers of the oil-rich nation was anticipated to draw more than 2.5 million pilgrims.

On Monday, temperatures reached 46 degrees Celsius when robed worshippers travelled from Makkah to Mina, where they spent the night in a massive tent city in preparation for the rituals at Mount Arafat.

A maximum age restriction has also been eliminated this year, allowing thousands more older people to participate.

The most significant physical hardship comes on Tuesday when pilgrims must endure hours of intense heat while praying and reading the Quran on the summit of Arafat and in the region surrounding it.

Air-conditioned housing is hard to find, unlike Makkah, which is filled with hotels and shopping centres, and Mina’s tent city.

Entry routes were crowded with worshippers as helicopters hovered overhead. Thousands of medical personnel were on high alert for incidents of excessive heat and heat stroke.

When outdoor labour is prohibited in Saudi Arabia around June and September to safeguard workers, the danger of heat stroke is greatest between 12 and 3 p.m.

After dusk, pilgrims will make a quick trip to Muzdalifah, which lies midway between Arafat and Mina, to spend the night outside.

They would gather stones the next day and perform a ritual “stoning of the devil” by throwing them at three enormous concrete walls.

Returning to Makkah’s Grand Mosque for the final visit, they will do one last lap around the Kaaba.

Haj has had multiple emergencies, involving violent assaults and devastating fires, so heat is not the main danger.

Up to 2,300 people were killed in a stampede in 2015. Major occurrences have not occurred since.

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