Mina, Saudi Arabia (AFP) – Muslim pilgrims rushed to complete the final rituals of the annual hajj on Sunday as they thronged a Saudi devil-stoning site on the penultimate day of the pilgrimage.
Most pilgrims will hurl rocks at three pillars representing Satan between noon and sunset, leaving the holy city of Mina before dusk.
But others will stay on in Mina until Monday when they will perform the stoning ritual one final time.
Worshippers living outside Mecca will have to perform the farewell circumambulation around the Kaaba, a cube-shaped structure in Mecca towards which Muslims worldwide pray.
The hajj officially ends on Monday but pilgrims who are in a hurry to conclude their journey can do so on Sunday.
“I hope I will be able to perform the hajj again in the future,” said Um Hassan, an Iraqi pilgrim. “It was a great experience.”
Able-bodied Muslims must perform the hajj at least once in their lifetime.
The devil-stoning in Mina, once the most dangerous phase of the hajj marred by deadly stampedes and fires in tent camps, has passed without incident this year.
Most tents are now fire-proof and gas canisters and cooking are banned. The stoning area has also been expanded to avoid overcrowding.
Saudi authorities have built a five-level structure around the stoning site, allowing for the smooth flow of pilgrims.
Over three million registered pilgrims took part in this year’s hajj, based on official figures. But many others also performed the pilgrimage without permits camping on roads and walking on foot between the holy sites.