Record number of Muslims brave sweltering heat on Mount Arafat

A Muslim pilgrim prays at dawn on Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy, during the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage on June 15, 2024. Photo: AFP

Over 1.5 million Muslims made the arduous journey to Mount Arafat amid scorching temperatures, as they gathered for the pinnacle of the annual hajj pilgrimage.

In a sea of white garments, pilgrims converged at dawn for the most demanding day of rituals, ascending the historic 70-meter hill where Prophet Mohammed delivered his final sermon.

“This day holds immense significance,” remarked 46-year-old Egyptian pilgrim Mohammed Asser, clutching a list of heartfelt prayers. “My prayers extend to the Palestinian people. May they receive divine assistance.”

Against the backdrop of the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, triggered by a militant incursion into southern Israel on October 7, this year’s hajj is underscored by solemn reflection.

Tragically, the recent escalation has claimed the lives of 1,194 individuals, predominantly civilians, according to reports based on official figures.

Amidst the relentless aerial assaults, with at least 37,266 fatalities, predominantly civilians as per Gaza’s health ministry, cries for peace echoed among the pilgrims.

Though Saudi Arabia’s pilgrimage lead, Tawfiq al-Rabiah, emphasized a ban on political demonstrations during the hajj, some devotees voiced support for the beleaguered Palestinians enduring months of relentless bombardment.

As one pilgrim raised his voice in solidarity, chanting prayers for their Palestinian brethren, the message of unity reverberated across the sacred site. Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, conveyed solidarity with Gaza, stressing unwavering support for their steadfast resistance.

Noteworthy is the presence of over 2,000 Palestinian pilgrims, invited by Saudi King Salman, partaking in this sacred journey.