Muslim pilgrims reach to touch the golden doors of the Kaaba as they perform the walk around the Kaaba (Tawaf) at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca early morning. Nov. 9, 2010. The Kaaba, Islam's holiest site which stands in the centre of Mecca's Grand Mosque, contains the holy Black Stone which is believed to be the only piece remaining from an altar built by Abraham.
Credit: Mustafa Ozer

More than 2.5 million Muslims from around the world are expected to perform the hajj.

The hajj, an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is the largest pilgrimage in the world. More than 2.5 million Muslims are expected to perform the hajj, a religious duty to be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so.

The pilgrimage is a demonstration of solidarity between Muslim people, as well as their submission to Allah.

This year, the hajj falls between Nov. 4 to 9.

The hajj is associated with the life of Islamic prophet Muhammad and during the time pilgrims join processions and perform a series of rituals. The rituals include: walking counter-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba — the cube-shaped building which acts as the Muslim direction of prayer — running back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drinking from the Zamzam Well, standing vigil at Mount Arafat, and throwing stones in a ritual Stoning of the Devil.

At the end of hajj, pilgrims shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice, and celebrate the three day global festival of Eid al-Adha.

Editors note: More photos to be added as the pilgrimage continues. 

  • Muslims around the world have been preparing to celebrate Eid al-Adha. In this image, a Muslim pilgrim prays atop Mount Al-Noor during the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, November 2, 2011.
    Credit: Ammar Awad
  • Tens of thousands of Muslim piligrims perform the evening prayer in the holy city's Grand Mosque. Nov. 2, 2011.
    Credit: Fayez Nureldine
  • Muslim pilgrims reach to touch the golden doors of the Kaaba as they perform the walk around the Kaaba (Tawaf) at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Oct. 31, 2011. The Kaaba, Islam's holiest site which stands in the centre of Mecca's Grand Mosque, contains the holy Black Stone which is believed to be the only piece remaining from an altar built by Abraham.
    Credit: Ammar Awad
  • Muslim pilgrims touch the wall of the Kaaba during the circle around the Kaaba (Tawaf) at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Nov. 9, 2010.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • Muslim pilgrims walk inside a tunnel following the evening prayer in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Nov. 12, 2010.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • Kashmiri pilgrims receives a send-off by relatives before departing for Mecca for the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in Srinagar. Oct. 17, 2011. The first batch of 580 Kashmiri Hajj pilgrims set off for the annual trip. Some 24,000 Hajj travel applications were received for this year's pilgrimage season, with 7,468 pilgrims selected for the journey
    Credit: Rouf Bhat
  • Muslim hajj pilgrims perform the noon prayers at the Nemra mosque near Mount Arafat. Nov. 5, 2011.
    Credit: Fayez Nureldine
  • An Egyptian man carries his sheep that he bought from a livestock market ahead of Eid-al-Adha celebrations in Cairo. Nov. 4, 2011.
    Credit: Mohammed Hossam
  • A Muslim pilgrim reads the Koran, Islam's holy book, following the evening prayer in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Nov. 12, 2010.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • Muslim pilgrims reach to touch the golden doors of the Kaaba as they perform the walk around the Kaaba (Tawaf) at the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca early morning. Nov. 9, 2010.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • A veiled woman looks at male Muslim pilgrims gathering at the Grand mosque for the Friday prayer in Mecca. Nov. 12, 2010.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • Afghans bid farewell as relatives and friends prepare to leave on a pilgrimage to the Islamic Hajj in Mecca in Herat, Afghanistan. Nov. 2, 2010.
    Credit: Majid Saeedi
  • Afghans prepare to leave on a pilgrimage to the Islamic Hajj in Mecca in Herat, Afghanistan. Nov. 2, 2010.
    Credit: Majid Saeedi
  • Pakistani Muslim men load a camel in a truck at an animal market as they prepare for the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival in Karachi. Nov. 2, 2011.
    Credit: Rizwan Tabassum
  • Muslim pilgrims walk on top of Noor mountain where the Hiraa cave is located overlooking Mecca late. Nov. 13, 2010.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • Muslim pilgrims walk on top of Noor mountain where the Hiraa cave is located overlooking Mecca. Nov. 13, 2010. According to tradition, Islam's Prophet Mohammed received his first message to preach Islam while praying in the cave.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • A Muslim pilgrim prays at the Hiraa cave on Noor mountain late. Nov. 13, 2010.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • Muslim pilgrims pray at Mount Arafat, southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Nov. 5, 2011.
    Credit: Fayez Nureldine
  • Muslim pilgrims throw pebbles at pillars during the "Jamarat" ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca. Nov. 6, 2011.
    Credit: Fayez Nureldine
  • Thousands of Muslim pilgrims arrive to throw pebbles at pillars during the "Jamarat" ritual, the stoning of Satan, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca. Nov. 6, 2011.
    Credit: Fayez Nureldine
  • Muslim pilgrims arrive to pray at Mount Arafat, southeast of the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Nov. 15, 2010.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • Muslim pilgrims gather to pray at Mount Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, early. Nov. 5, 2011.
    Credit: Fayez Nureldine
  • Muslim pilgrims gather to pray at Mount Arafat near the holy city of Mecca. Early on Nov. 5, 2011.
    Credit: Fayez Nureldine
  • Muslim pilgrims gather to pray at Mount Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, early on Nov. 5, 2011.
    Credit: Fayez Nureldine
  • A Saudi worker stiches Islamic calligraphy in gold thread on a silk drape to cover the Kaaba at the Kiswa factory in the holy city of Mecca. Nov. 8, 2010. The Kaaba cover is called Kiswa and is changed every year at the culmination of the annual hajj or pilgrimage. The Kaaba, Islam's holiest site which stands in the centre of Mecca's Grand Mosque, contains the holy Black Stone which is believed to be the only piece remaining from an altar built by Abraham.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • Saudi boys sort through "zamzam" water containers at the Zamazemah United Office in Mecca. Nov. 7, 2010. According to Islamic belief, zamzam is a miraculously-generated source of water from God, which began thousands of years ago when Abraham's infant son Ishmael was thirsty and crying for water when it discovered a well by kicking the ground. Millions of pilgrims visit the well each year while performing the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages, in order to drink its water.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • A Muslim pilgrim shaves his head after performing the "Jamarat" ritual, the symbolic stoning of Satan, in Mina near the holy city of Mecca on the third day of the hajj. Nov. 16, 2010.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer
  • Pakistani Muslims slaughter animals at a mosque in Lahore. Nov. 7, 2011.
    Credit: Arif Ali
  • Blood flows down the street while children watch on as volunteers slaughter a cow at Daarun Najaah mosque during the Eid al-Adha festival in Jakarta. Nov. 17, 2010. Indonesian Muslims along with thousands others around the world are marking Eid al-Adha or 'Feast of the Sacrifice', which marks the end of the annual hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca.
    Credit: Romeo Gacad
  • Egyptian Muslim women gather to pray under a statue of the late Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum as they celebrate Eid al-Adha, on the main street the Nile Delta city of Mansura some 120 north of Cairo. Nov. 6, 2011
    Credit: Khaled Desouki
  • A Palestinian woman walks past balloons on sale outside the Damascus Gate leading into the old city of Jerusalem as Muslims make their way to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site. Nov. 6, 2011. Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid al-Adha or the Feast of the Sacrifice, marking the end of the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorating Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God's command.
    Credit: Menahem Kahana
  • Libyans have their passports stamped as they wait to board a plane from Tripoli's Mitiga airport to Saudi Arabia to perform the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. Nov. 1, 2011.
    Credit: Joseph Eid
  • Muslim pilgrims sleep inside the Grand Mosque in the Saudi holy city of Mecca. Nov. 9, 2010.
    Credit: Mustafa Ozer

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