Hajj pilgrims ascend Mount Arafat for day of worship
More than two million pilgrims began heading to Arafat at dawn on Saturday to perform the initial rites of the Hajj pilgrimage.
The Islamic pilgrimage takes the faithful along a path traversed by the Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago which includes Mount Arafat from which he is said to have delivered his final sermon calling for equality and for Muslims to unite.
Throughout the day, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims will scale the hill and pray facing the Kaaba, the cube-shaped structure in Mecca which observant Muslims around the world face in prayer five times a day.
Among them are 200 survivors and relatives of victims of the attacks on two New Zealand mosques in March.
The Hajj is one of the largest and most diverse gatherings in the world, drawing more than 1.8 million people from around the world this year, according to Saudi officials.
The second day of the Hajj is often the most memorable for pilgrims.
The pilgrimage this year takes place amid a backdrop of political and sectarian tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, while conflicts still flare in Yemen, Syria and Libya.
Muslim minorities around the world also face increased threats, including in Indian-administered Kashmir, where a sweeping curfew is in effect.
Few pilgrims from neighbouring Qatar will perform the religious rite because of a Saudi-led blockade imposed on the Gulf state in 2017.
The past two pilgrimages have only seen a handful of Qataris attend because of the travel restrictions and obstacles imposed on them by the Saudi government.