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MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia (AP) — From all around the world and after years of saving, Muslim pilgrims packed onto a rocky landscape outside of Mecca on Wednesday for the apex of the annual hajj pilgrimage.

For most, it was an emotional once-in-a-lifetime experience — a chance to stand on the spot at Mount Arafat, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Mecca, where Islam’s Prophet Muhammad is believed to have given his final sermon.

Men dressed in simple white terry cloth garments and women in modest attire and unadorned by makeup wept in joy after making it to the site before dawn.

The faithful believe that prayer here on this day is a chance for rebirth, an opportunity to wipe past sins clean.

Some captured the moment on their phones, a precious memento to share with relatives back home who one day hope to make the hajj journey — a duty of all able-bodied Muslims.

As the day progressed, pilgrims made their way to the Arafat valley’s Namira mosque, following the path of the Prophet Muhammad in offering midday and late afternoon prayers.

This year’s five-day hajj pilgrimage began Tuesday. About 2 million Muslims are taking part.

Here is a series of images by Associated Press photographer Mosa’ab Elshamy of pilgrims taking part in the hajj in Saudi Arabia.


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