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The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam

The Kaaba is a large black cubic structure at the centre of Mecca's Grand Mosque towards which Muslims turn to pray wherever they are in the world
— Mecca (Saudi Arabia) (AFP)

The annual hajj pilgrimage, one of the five pillars of Islam, will start on Sunday with more than two million Muslims from around the world expected to take part this year.

It will be the largest pilgrimage since the coronavirus pandemic forced Saudi authorities to dramatically downsize the event.

More than 926,000 people took part in 2022, up from nearly 59,000 the previous year, according to official figures. In 2019, the Hajj drew in around 2.5 million pilgrims.

With Covid-19 restrictions completely lifted and age limits scrapped, the kingdom expects to return to pre-pandemic levels of more than two million.

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