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Haj reflections

Haj reflections

Siraj Wahab, a journalist with Arab News, gives a rare and personal glimpse of the Haj pilgrimage in Mecca.

December 9, 2008 11:47 by

Yesterday was the beginning of the stoning ritual. Thanks to elaborate planning on the part of the Saudi authorities, the stoning at the Jamrat proceeded minus the sound of sirens that signal a deadly stampede. In any case, our team of journalists made its way to the King Abdullah Bridge to witness the proceedings.

The pilgrims were marching with purpose to the Jamrat complex under the direction of their leaders. Spotting the individual groups is easy because each group leader holds a signature pole in the air. Before the rituals begin, the guides tie some object to a long, strong pole. Flags are the most common object but we’ve seen bunches of slippers, a tea pot, a black umbrella and a toy bicycle tied to different poles. One guide who seemed to have lost his pole was carrying a large branch from a neem tree. Whatever is different will do the job of helping the pilgrims keep their leaders in sight.

At King Abdullah Bridge, I was accosted by an elderly Pakistani pilgrim who was lost. The green fluorescent vests we wear marking us as media cause nothing but confusion as pilgrims continue to assume we are Haj officials. Zebunnisa Begum from Karachi became separated from her husband in Arafat and she hadn’t been able to find him.

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