Helicopters were seen hovering overhead with thousands of military troops standing guard to maintain order on the streets lined with men, woman and children.
Many of the pilgrims camped in tents that were both small and colorful and sat under the shade of trees to escape the temperatures that reached 104 Fahrenheit. Organizers set up sprinklers to keep the pilgrims cool.
Top cleric Sheikh Abdulziz al-Sheikh from Saudi Arabia urged all Muslims to avoid chaos, sectarianism and divisions. He did not speak specifically about any of the turmoil that unleashed the 2011 Arab Spring.
The Cleric spoke about safeguarding the stability, security and resources of the pilgrim’s countries.
He also said that the enemy was targeting the Muslims and wanted to spread chaos amongst them and it was time to confront this.
Nothing was said by the cleric specifically about Syria, where rebels that are Sunni-led are backed by Saudi Arabia and at war with the Alawites, a Shiite Islam offshoot, and a close ally with Hezbollah and Shiite Iran.
The Cleric spoke of the Islamic prohibition of aggression and killing, while he insisted there was no salvation or happiness for the nation of Muslims without adhering to the religion’s teachings.
Attendance for this year’s hajj is sharply lower than from last year because of the MERS virus link and because of expansion work being done on the Grand Mosque. When the expansion is complete, the capacity should double to over 2.2 million worshippers.
Officials said close to 1.38 million had made the pilgrimage from outside Saudi Arabia, while only 117,000 permits at hajj were issued to pilgrims from Saudi.