The annual pilgrimage for Muslims called hajj is underway in an event that is expected to bring millions of people together for six consecutive days in Saudi Arabia. The centuries-old tradition is one of the largest religious gatherings in the world and meant for Muslims to show submission to their faith of Islam. The Koran recommends all Muslims make the journey at least once in their lifetime.
The gathering, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is officially scheduled to begin Saturday. Millions of Muslims were already in the holy city of Mecca Friday for the occassion, with many more expected to arrive from more than 150 countries, Al Jazeera reported. To watch a live stream from Mecca, click here or scroll down to the end of the article for an embedded live video feed.
Last year's gathering was marred by a massive stampede in which thousands of people were crushed to death in a catastrophe that may have been attributed to "pilgrims rushing to complete the rituals, heat, masses of faithful pushing against each other in opposite directions, even confusion among the many first-timers on the annual Islamic pilgrimage," CNN reported.
In an effort to prevent a repeat of last year's tragedy, Saudi Arabia has announced tighter security measures, including the new installation of nearly a thousand surveillance cameras as well as the distribution of electronic bracelets to pilgrims with health issues to help expedite potential medical treatment should they require it.
The holy Islamic holiday of Eid al Adha will coincide with hajj — taking place on the third day of the gathering — and is known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, during which worshippers typically slaughter an animal such as a goat or sheep. Nearly 10 million animals are slaughtered in Pakistan on Eid as a reminder to Muslims that of the time in which Ibrahim was about to sacrifice his son but was told by God to sacrifice an animal instead.
Below is an embedded live video feed of hajj 2016 from Mecca.