Crowds of Muslims wearing white robes circle the Kaaba, the cube-shaped building at the center of Islam's holiest site, as their prayers fill the air, signaling the start of the Hajj pilgrimage.
The tawaf, or circling of the Kaaba, which marks the start of the annual pilgrimage, took place on Sunday in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.
The largest Hajj pilgrimage in history will take place this year, according to a representative of the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.
Due to the complete relaxation of coronavirus pandemic restrictions that have been in place since 2020, more than 2.5 million Muslims are anticipated to participate.
In that year, only 10,000 participants were allowed; in 2021, 59,000; and in 2018, a maximum of one million participants.
"I am living the most beautiful days of my life," 65-year-old Egyptian Abdelazim told the AFP news agency while he was there. Abdelazim had saved up for the $6000 cost of the event for 20 years.
The pilgrims will start traveling to Mina on Sunday evening, about 8 kilometers (5 miles) from al-Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, in Mecca. From there, they will congregate at Mount Arafat, where Prophet Muhammad is thought to have given his last sermon.
Food supplies have been brought in and security personnel have been deployed in Mina in preparation for the pilgrims.
The Hajj this year is difficult because it will take place in temperatures close to 45 degrees Celsius and because the lunar calendar will determine when it will take place.
According to Saudi authorities, there are thousands of ambulances and more than 32,000 medical personnel ready to respond to cases of heatstroke, dehydration, and exhaustion.
One of Islam's five pillars, the ritual is required of every able-bodied adult Muslim who has the financial means to participate.
It is intended that the mentally and emotionally taxing experience will purge followers of sin and draw them nearer to God.
This year, the Hajj is performed between June 26 and July 1, with Eid al-Adha being observed on June 28.
Even though it is an expensive ritual, the Hajj pilgrimage frequently gives people hope, especially those who come from nations that are plagued by war, poverty, or occupation. To be able to afford it, many people fork over years of their meager savings.
Last week, four pilgrimage groups departed from Gaza. In the meantime, a steady stream of pilgrims from northwest Syria crossed into Turkey at border points. Additionally, Yemenis traveled to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage on the first direct flight since 2016.