01/02/2007, 00.00
ISLAM
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Mecca pilgrims stone devil today

So far no incidents have been reported among the three million believers undertaking the pilgrimage. In past pilgrimages, the ritual of throwing stones proved to be a risky moment that sometimes led to crushes and victims. Nearly two billion euros have been spent.

Mecca (AsiaNews/Agencies) – So far, no incidents have marred the pilgrimage to Mecca as opposed to previous years. Ending today, the pilgrimage saw three million believers carry out the symbolic ritual of throwing stones at the devil that is part of the Haj.

 

The rite evokes the act of Abraham who resisted temptation three times by chasing away the devil with stones. It is carried out in Mina valley not far from Mecca where three “columns of the devil” are set up. Seven stones are thrown at them to cries of “Allah Akbar” (God is great). The ritual unfolds in an atmosphere of high excitement that has often led to crushes and tragedy. Last year, 362 people were killed and 600 injured.

 

In Mina, a “city of tents” has come up, where pilgrims rest before carrying out the stoning ritual and from where they go back to Mecca for the conclusion of the Haj.

 

A rise in the number of pilgrims has been recorded this year. Abdul Jalil Kaaki, chairman of the Saudi committee that takes care of the pilgrims, said this was proved by an increase of more than 10% in Haj-related expenses that topped 10 billion riyal, around two billion euros.

 

The committee, quoted by Arab News, said pilgrims spent seven billion riyal on hotels that were fully booked this year. One billion went to restaurants, another for transport. Significant sums were spent to buy animals for sacrifice, for telecommunications, gifts and souvenirs.

 

Buying the seven stones to hurl at the “columns of the devil” were another, albeit modest, budget item. Traditionally, stones are gathered from the mountains surrounding Mina that are quite far away. Sellers on the streets offer bags of stones for sale, usually for around one riyal (around 20 euro cents of). Some buy more and take them home as a souvenir, while others give their extra to other pilgrims.

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