Pilgrims flock to Mecca

Pilgrims flock to Mecca

BAGHDAD / MECCA - Hürriyet Daily News
Pilgrims flock to Mecca

Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba as they pray inside and outside the Grand mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. AP Photo

A group of Turkish pilgrims stranded in Iraq with visa issues has reached the Iraqi-Saudi border days after their buses were turned back, as millions of Muslims flock to Mecca to conduct the hajj pilgrimage.

Baghdad had stopped 128 buses loaded with worshippers bound for Mecca on the annual hajj pilgrimage last week for visas issued by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Since then, the Iraqi consulate in Gaziantep has issued a total of 6,000 visas. Another group of pilgrims who had been waiting at the Habur border gate have been allowed to enter Iraq after they were issued visas.

Over 1.5 million foreign pilgrims have arrived in Mecca for the hajj, which all physically and financially able Muslims are required to perform once in their life. The number of pilgrims from abroad and within Saudi Arabia is expected to grow until the main rites begin tomorrow.

Pilgrims will assemble on the Arafat plain outside Mecca on Oct. 25, the most important day of the holiday.
The pilgrimage ends after Eid al-Adha on Oct. 26. It is unclear how many people from Syria, rocked by a civil war that began with a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime 19 months ago, will make the journey.