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October 26, 2012
Muslims begin hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia

MOUNT ARAFAT, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Hours before sunrise Thursday, thousands of Muslims from around the world stood in the dark on a rocky desert hill, preparing for prayers on the first day of the annual hajj pilgrimage, a central pillar of their faith.

Muslims believe that prayer on Mount Arafat is their best chance to erase past sins and start anew.

The four-day hajj features millions packed shoulder to shoulder in prayer and supplication. According to Islam, each able-bodied believer must make the pilgrimage once.

"Let all your feuds be abolished," the Prophet Muhammad said in his last sermon on the hill called Jabal al-Rahman, Mountain of Mercy, in the area of Mount Arafat. "You must know that every Muslim is the brother of every Muslim...between Muslims there are no races and no tribes...do not oppress and do not be oppressed."

Some 1,400 years later, Muslims believe on this day and at this place, the gates of heaven are open for prayers to be answered and sins to be forgiven.

(26 images)




Muslim pilgrims pray on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in the early hours of Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. Saudi authorities say around 3.4 million pilgrims -- some 1.7 million of them from abroad -- have arrived in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for this year's pilgrimage. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims cast stones at a pillar, symbolizing the stoning of Satan, in a ritual called "Jamarat," a rite of the annual hajj, the Islamic faith's most holy pilgrimage, in Mina near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims cast stones at a pillar, symbolizing the stoning of Satan, in a ritual called "Jamarat," a rite of the annual hajj, the Islamic faith's most holy pilgrimage, in Mina near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims hug each other as they celebrate after casting stones at a pillar, symbolizing the stoning of Satan, in a ritual called "Jamarat," a rite of the annual hajj, the Islamic faith's most holy pilgrimage,in Mina near the Saudi holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. The five-day rituals of Hajj began on October 24 when millions arrived in the holy city of Mecca. They traveled from Mecca to the nearby city of Mina to spend a night in prayer and spend time near Mount Arafat before performing the symbolic ritual of devil stoning. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims climb a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy on the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims pray on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy on the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrim pray outside Namira mosque in Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims pray outside Namira mosque in Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrim head to pray outside Namira mosque in Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims pray on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy on the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims walk toward Mount Arafat ahead of the hajj main ritual at Mount Arafat in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims walk up Mount Arafat ahead of the hajj main ritual in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims head to Arafat ahead of the hajj main ritual at Mount Arafat in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba as pray inside the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba as pray inside the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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A Saudi vendor waits customers at gold shop in a market near the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims pray outside the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims pray outside the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims pray outside the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims pray outside the Grand mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba as pray inside and outside the Grand mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba as pray inside the Grand mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims leave the Grand mosque after the noon prayer in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims pray inside the Grand mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Clouds gather over the Saudi holy city of Mecca as seen from the top of Noor Mountain, near where the Hiraa cave is located on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar
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Muslim pilgrims pray at the top of Noor Mountain, near where the Hiraa cave is located on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012. AP / Hassan Ammar

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