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Muslim pilgrims in Mecca wind down Hajj

Nov. 6, 2011 at 9:39 AM

MECCA, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims in Saudi Arabia stoned pillars representing Satan Sunday as the annual Feast of Sacrifice, Eid al-Adha, began.

The beginning of the three-day feast marked the end of the annual pilgrimage of Hajj to Mecca and surrounding holy cities.

Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz said more than 2.5 million Muslims from 183 countries had arrived since Friday for Hajj, Voice of America reported.

Traveling to Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed, for Hajj is mandatory for all Muslims who are physically and financially able.

It involves visiting mosques in Mecca and Medina. On Sunday, the final day of Hajj, large crowds of pilgrims traveled to the city of Mina where there were three 80-foot pillars representing Satan. Each person threw 21 stones at each of the pillars, representing the defeat of evil.

The stoning ritual has turned deadly in recent years with hundreds of people trampled to death. However, the Saudi government built new paths, expanded existing ones and reinforced bridges, Kuwait's KUNA news agency said.

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