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Pilgrims Descend On Mecca For Hajj

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Their backs hunched, elderly Muslim pilgrims lean on walking sticks as others in wheelchairs nudge their way into Mecca's Grand Mosque where scores of people are encircling the holy Kaaba - reported the France24.

"Allahu akbar" (God is greater), they chant in unison.

Most are Asian and African, among the hundreds of thousands of faithful who have descended on Saudi Arabia's holy city for the annual hajj pilgrimage starting on Thursday.

The Grand Mosque, home of the cube-shaped Kaaba or "House of God" that Muslims believe was built by Abraham 4,000 years ago, was thronged Sunday for prayers and for the year-round minor pilgrimage or umrah.

With the call to prayer the crowds fall silent, many spreading their prayer rugs on roads leading to the mosque.

This year's hajj comes as the authorities strive to protect pilgrims from two deadly viruses, Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus or MERS.

While Ebola has hit Africa, most MERS cases worldwide have been in Saudi Arabia itself, home to Islam's holiest sites.

Pilgrims from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three nations hardest-hit by Ebola which has killed more than 3,000 people in West Africa this year, have not been allowed in for the hajj.

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Reporter: Kovásznai-Szász Réka
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