More Than 1.8 million pilgrims arrive for Hajj

Saudi Arabia says more than 1.8 million Muslims from around the world have arrived in the country to take part in the hajj pilgrimage, the fifth pillar of Islam, that starts on Friday.

In total the holy city of Makkah is preparing to host more than 2.5 million Hajj pilgrims to perform this year’s rituals, with 16 government agencies providing 50 services to visitors.

International Hajj flight arrivals ended on Monday, and on Wednesday morning the final batch of pilgrims using the Makkah Route Initiative flew in from Tunisia.

The Makkah Route initiative enables pilgrims to complete Saudi health, visa and immigration procedures in their home countries, with seamless transport to Makkah and Madinah for them and their baggage from the moment they arrive in the Kingdom.

The Director General of Passports, Gen. Suleiman al-Yehya, announced the figure Wednesday, saying close to 970,000 male and 868,000 female pilgrims had arrived to Saudi Arabia for the hajj. In total, more than 2 million people, including Saudis and expatriate residents of the kingdom, are expected to take part this year.

The government has dedicated 350,000 people to help the pilgrims, said Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, who toured Makkah and the holy sites on

The Saudi government has spent billions of dollars to improve the safety of the pilgrimage in recent years, particularly in Mina where the deadliest incidents have occurred.