Haj 2018: What is the Day of Arafat?

Maj. Gen. Sulaiman Al Yahya director general of the Directorate General of Passports speaking at a press conference in Jeddah on Thursday. — SG

No fewer than 37,746 Nigerian Muslims have been transported to Saudi Arabia to perform this year's hajj.

The white garments are forbidden to contain any stitching - a restriction meant to emphasise the equality of all Muslims and prevent wealthier pilgrims from differentiating themselves with more elaborate garments. Nearly 14,000 global and domestic flights have so far transported pilgrims with around 21,000 buses also used.

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, a pillar of Islam.

This year, organizers launched an initiative called "smart hajj", with applications to help pilgrims find their way or get emergency medical care from the Saudi Red Crescent.

They traditionally slaughter sheep for the three-day Eid al-Adha, a tribute to the prophet Abraham's sacrifice of a lamb after God spared Ishmael, his son.

In a midday sermon, senior Saudi cleric Sheikh Hussein bin Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh also urged pilgrims to come together with their co-religionists but cautioned: "Haj is not a place for slogans and parties".

Muslim pilgrims line up to board a bus in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca, bound for the tent-city of Mina, during the first day of the annual Hajj pilgrimage on August 19, 2018.

Fans pay tribute to "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin
Funeral and memorial arrangements for Aretha Franklin are expected to be released in the next few days. It is one of Franklin's signature songs , and is considered the song that introduced her to the world.

Pilgrims enter into a state of spiritual purity known as ihram that is aimed at shedding symbols of materialism, giving up worldly pleasures and focusing on the inner self over outward appearance.

After sunset, they will head to Muzdalifah where they will stay until midnight and offer Maghreb and Isha prayers.

They gather pebbles to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil on the eve of the Eid al-Adha feast.

Pilgrimage is the backbone of a plan to expand tourism under a drive to diversify the kingdom's economy away from oil.

Traffic authorities, security personnel and staff from various government and private sector organizations, in addition to 4,000 Saudi scouts, have been deployed to assist and guide the pilgrims in several languages.

The free nap pods are part of new measures Saudi Arabia is rolling out this year in a bid to modernize the centuries-old practice of hajj.

Qatar has been isolated since June 2017, accused by Saudi Arabia and its allies of supporting terrorism and being too close to Riyadh's archrival, Iran - charges Doha denies.

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