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Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims move around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque during the hajj pilgrimage on Nov. 10. The annual Islamic pilgrimage draws 3 million visitors each year, making it the largest yearly gathering of people in the world.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hassan Ammar / Associated Press

Pilgrims in the Grand Mosque on Nov. 13.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hassan Ammar / Associated Press

The Grand Mosque is seen from the top of Noor mountain Nov. 12.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: MUSTAFA OZER / AFP

Pilgrims pray on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy on the plain of Arafat on Nov. 15.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hassan Ammar / Associated Press

Pilgrims on the Mountain of Mercy on Nov. 15.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hassan Ammar / Associated Press

A pilgrim prays on Mt. Arafat, southeast of Mecca, on Nov. 15. Pilgrims flooded onto the Arafat plain from Mecca and Mina before dawn for a key ritual around the site where prophet Mohammed gave his farewell sermon on this day in the Islamic calendar 1,378 years ago. Pilgrims spend the day at Arafat in reflection and reading the Koran.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: MUSTAFA OZER / AFP

Mt. Arafat.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: MUSTAFA OZER / AFP

The moon is seen behind the minaret of the Namira Mosque at Mt. Arafat on Nov. 14.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: MUSTAFA OZER / AFP

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By Sarah El Deeb
Associated Press

Nearly 3 million Muslims are performing the annual hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, that began Sunday. Pilgrims climbed the rocky desert Mt. Arafat on Monday, chanting that they have come to answer God’s call.

The climb is one of the cornerstones of the pilgrimage, which is required from every able-bodied Muslim at least once in his life. Mt. Arafat is the site where Islam’s prophet Muhammad delivered his farewell sermon, and Muslims believe on this day the doors of heaven open to answer prayers and grant forgiveness.

On Monday evening, the crowds head to the next stage of the pilgrimage in Muzdalifa, where they collect pebbles to use in the symbolic stoning of the devil the next day.

The first day of stoning also marks the start of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, when Muslims around the world slaughter sheep and cattle in remembrance of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son. The stoning lasts three days until the end of hajj on Sunday.

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Times staff photographer Irfan Khan made the pilgrimage and produced this audio slide show.

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