This year’s Hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, started Wednesday and will see more than 2 million worshipers travel to the Saudi Arabian city.
Although that’s an exponential increase from the 24,000 who attended in 1941, Hajj differs from that early celebration in a number of important ways. The 2 million worshippers visiting their spiritual capital will have an unprecedented level of security, a nod to today's troubled times.
The Saudi Interior Ministry has dispatched 100,000 guards and17,000 civil defense workers. Thousands of security cameras will monitor the crowds for disturbances.
This year’s contingent of pilgrims is a melting pot of many nations, with 221,000 from Indonesia alone, the largest group from a single country. They and their fellow worshippers will enjoy something else their counterparts from 1941 lacked: thousands of air conditioned tents in the town of Mina, located adjacent to Mecca and Mount Arafat.
Food will be handled by the more than 700 Saudi cooks recruited for the event. The effort is part of Saudi Arabia's plan to welcome more than 30 million travelers annually, a boost over the 8 million that make the journey throughout the year.