UP to two million Muslims are in the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia today to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, which takes place this year from October 13th to 18th.
Dressed in white clothing and in a state of ritual purity, they have come from all over the world to participate in one of Islam’s five pillars, an obligation for every Muslim who is physically and financially able to do so.
The faithful begin by circling the Kaaba seven times in a ritual called tawaf. Muslims believe that the Kaaba was built by Abraham and his son Ishmael.
Saudi Arabia has acquired advanced security equipment to protect the annual Muslim pilgrimage.
Officials said the Saudi Interior Ministry has overseen the installation of cameras and sensors to monitor the millions of people.
But it’s not a Mecca for gold sales this year.
Economic hardships brought about by Arab Spring uprisings have taken a toll on jewelry retail trade in Mecca, slashing gold sales by more than half compared to the same period last year, retailers said.
Visitors from Arab countries traditionally buy jewelry during the annual Muslim haj pilgrimage, often taking home necklaces, rings and bracelets to loved ones.
major gold dealer said about 40 percent of the gold businesss was with Egyptian pilgrims, who had for long been some of his main customers, he said, adding, “But now because they have been affected by the Arab Spring they don’t have any extra money to spend on gold.”