The tent city of Mina burst into color Wednesday as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims donned their traditional best, with the most vivid and striking outfits worn by Africans, Indonesians and Pakistanis.
There were scenes of jubilation as pilgrims completed the mandatory ritual of stoning the three gray walls that represent the devil inside the Jamarat complex. Pilgrims threw seven pebbles at each of the three walls in a ritual they will repeat on Thursday before leaving Mina.
The pilgrims seemed under no stress or duress. They marched toward the Jamarat complex with smiles on their spiritually radiant faces. Many found time to take pictures and make long-distance calls to their loved ones in their home countries who were celebrating Eid Al-Adha on Wednesday.
Many of the faithful also exchanged pleasantries with fellow pilgrims. The men in uniform joined the celebrations by congratulating the Hajis.
“We are delighted beyond words,” said Nabila Hasan, an Egyptian pilgrim from Alexandria. “I can’t believe we carried out these rituals. They seemed daunting at the outset, but were pretty easy to carry out, thanks to the wonderful arrangements.”
Security forces continued to remain vigilant along pedestrian walkways and did not allow anyone to block the passages. There was no letup in the harsh weather, with hospitals treating many pilgrims for sunburn and exhaustion because of the constant walking.
The Haj trains, which have now become a dominant feature of the annual pilgrimage, continued to ferry pilgrims from one end of the tent city to the Jamarat station.
With everything under control, this was described by many as the most successful Haj.
Maj. Gen. Abdullah Al-Zahrani, head of the high-tech command and control center for Haj security, told an international news agency that the success was based on two factors. “The organization for this year’s Haj was better because of the reduced number of pilgrims and the correct implementation of the security plan,” said Al-Zahrani.
The center installed more than 5,000 cameras to monitor all the holy sites, including 1,200 at the Grand Mosque.
“We installed and experimented with highly advanced cameras for the first time this year and this has proved successful,” said Al-Zahrani.
The center in Mina has many television screens receiving live videos around the clock from the holy sites.
Backed by three helicopters, the center is able to quickly pinpoint problem areas and inform security agencies.
“Our thanks go to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, the entire Saudi leadership and the Saudi people for taking such good care of us all,” said Habibur Rahman from Azamgarh in India.
Faiz Ahmed Kidwai, the Indian consul general, said a remarkable achievement of this year’s Haj was that only 41 Indian pilgrims were reported missing since the start of operations in Mina, compared to 300 last year during the same period. “This year’s Haj is a massive success,” he said.