Millions of Muslim worshipers cast pebbles in the “stoning of the devil” ritual of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, as Muslims around the world are celebrating the first day of Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) holiday.
On Wednesday, day three of the annual Hajj rituals, groups of worshipers made their way across the valley of Mina, near the holy city of Mecca in western Saudi Arabia, to throw stones at three concrete walls representing Satan.
The ritual is an emulation of Prophet Ibrahim’s stoning of the devil at the three spots where it is said Satan tried to dissuade him from obeying God’s order to sacrifice his son, Ismail.
Helicopters hovered overhead while security officers organized the flow of worshipers in Jamarat, where the stoning ritual takes place, as Saudi authorities closely watched the crowds to ensure an incident-free Hajj.
The stoning ritual has in past years led to deadly stampedes, as millions of participants converge on a tight space.
Thousands of health workers were also on alert for cases of heatstroke and exhaustion as temperatures soared to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).
The final stage of the pilgrimage takes place at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, where the pilgrims will perform a final circumambulation of the Holy Ka’aba, the revered cube-shaped shrine towards which Muslims worldwide pray each day.
Saudi authorities have described this year’s event as the “biggest” Hajj pilgrimage in years, as more than two million people from over 160 countries were said to have attended the annual religious gathering.
The event comes as the requirement for women to be accompanied by male guardians was dropped by Saudi authorities in 2021.
This year, the maximum age limit has also been scrapped, meaning thousands of elderly people will be among those braving Saudi Arabia’s scorching heat that is projected to reach 44 degrees Celsius.
The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the pillars of Islam that Muslims who enjoy financial self-sufficiency are religiously obliged to perform at least once in their lifetime.
This year, the first groups of Hajj pilgrims left Iran for Saudi Arabia on May 24.