One million worshipers, including 850,000 randomly selected foreigners, spent the night in tents set up in the Mina Valley, seven kilometers from the Great Mosque of Mecca, Islam’s holiest site.

At dawn, they converged on Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have delivered his last sermon, to perform the most important ritual of the pilgrimage.

They will spend the day praying and reciting the Quran before heading at sunset to Muzdalifah, halfway between Arafat and Mina, where they will sleep under the stars before preparing for the Eid al feast. -Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) Saturday. They will then perform the symbolic ceremony of the “stoning of the devil”. This ritual has resulted in deadly stampedes in the past, as hundreds of thousands of people converge on a tight space.

The hajj takes place in a context of epidemic resumption in several Gulf countries, which have recently put in place barrier measures.

Upon their arrival in Mina on Thursday, the pilgrims received small bags containing masks and disinfectant gel.

The hajj, one of the largest annual religious gatherings in the world, is one of the five pillars of Islam and should be undertaken by all Muslims who can afford it at least once in their lifetime.

In 2019, some 2.5 million Muslims around the world took part. But the coronavirus outbreak has forced Saudi authorities to limit gatherings to just a few thousand in 2020 and 2021.

– Burning sun –

It is under a scorching sun and temperatures approaching 42 degrees Celsius that Muslims perform the hajj this year.

Hats being forbidden for men, some pilgrims protect themselves from the sun with umbrellas, prayer mats, or even with a small bucket filled with water.

Women, on the other hand, are obliged to cover their heads with a scarf.

On the mountain on Friday morning, many worshipers brought their umbrellas in anticipation of a day of prayers under the sun.

“We can tolerate (the heat). We are here for the hajj. The more we tolerate, the more valuable our pilgrimage is,” Laila, a 64-year-old Iraqi, says in Mecca before heading up Mt.

– Extreme conditions –

Saudi authorities say they have taken the necessary precautions to deal with the extreme conditions by reserving hundreds of hospital beds and installing “a large number of misting fans”. A truck will distribute umbrellas, water bottles and small fans.

The National Meteorological Center also sends warning messages to pilgrims on their mobile phones, calling on them not to expose themselves during the hottest hours of the day.

After the Saturday ritual, pilgrims will return to the Grand Mosque in Mecca to perform a final “tawaf” around the Kaaba, the cubic structure draped in black cloth embroidered with gold to which all Muslims turn to pray.