Haji, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, is ongoing

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Once arrived in Mecca, the pilgrims go to the Grand Mosque which contains the Ka’aba, the most sacred site in Islam. According to the Haji’s rules, they must circle the Ka’aba 7 times counterclockwise and because there are too many people this can take many hours. The next step for the pilgrims is to go to the Plain of Arafat, a few miles east of Mecca. This is the place where the Prophet Muhammad delivered his final sermon. The participants to the Haji must spend the day in supplication. They must pray and read the Quran. Some other rituals are included in the Haji program. In some circumstances the big number of people can be a danger, accidents may occur. In 2006, as an example, 380 pilgrims were killed and 289 were injured. A lot of animals, about 600,000 each year, are sacrificed during the Haji and the meat is donated to charity.
Because Haji is the largest mass gathering in the World, a lot of health issues occur to participants, including respiratory infections and diarrheal disease. Hepatitis and HIV are also supposed to be transmitted. This year, the Saudi government imposed up to 50 percent reduction of the number of participants from various countries due to the danger of infection with the MERS virus which killed dozens in the country.

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