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Carrying brightly coloured umbrellas under the blazing sun, a sea of worshippers scaled the rocky hill southeast of the holy city of Mecca for a day of prayers and repentance.

The ultra-conservative kingdom - where religion remains a guiding force amid dramatic social and economic reforms - has mobilised vast resources for the six-day journey, one of the five pillars of Islam.

The Hajj offers pilgrims an opportunity to feel closer to Allah (God).

The project includes nine overground stations, each with a 300-meter long platform that can be accessed by pilgrims via specific routes to the waiting areas under the stations, each of which can accommodate more than 3,000 people.

The interior ministry said on Saturday that the number of pilgrims arriving in Makkah already surpassed the two million mark, mostly from overseas including large contingents from Egypt, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

'We know that it's a hard task, ' said Amna Khan, a 35-year-old American Muslim pilgrim.

Muslim pilgrims walks towards the Grand Mosque, to offer prayers ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Over 1.28 lakh Indian pilgrims have reached Saudi Arabia to perform the annual Haj pilgrimage, officials said.

After sunset, pilgrims will head to Muzdalifah, half-way between Arafat and Mina, where they will stay at least until midnight.

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He added that the employees are to begin investigating in the holy places the cases referred to them by the concerned authorities, bring cases before the competent courts, manage detention units in the holy places, and oversee the implementation of court orders there.

On Mount Arafat, pilgrims stand in earnest supplication and devotion, praying for God's abundant forgiveness, while clerics admonish them on issues of religious and moral importance.

The hajj ends with Eid al-Adha, a three-day feast which starts with the "stoning of the devil".

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia said it would provide Hajj visas for Qatari nationals on arrival, according to The National website.

The four countries accused Qatar of sponsoring "terrorism" and destabilizing the region, an allegation strongly denied by Doha.

It also comes more than a year into the worst political crisis to grip the Gulf, pitting regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Qatar against one another.

Qatar on Sunday said that its citizens were unable to take part in the hajj because of the diplomatic dispute.

In 2016, Iran boycotted the Hajj over security concerns after hundreds of people were killed in a crush there. Pilgrims will return to pray there at the end of haj.


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