Muslim pilgrims take pictures for the pilgrims as they pray around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque, during the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca October 1, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
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Hundreds of thousands of Muslims began a mass movement Thursday out of the holy city of Mecca towards nearby Mina in western Saudi Arabia, at the launch of the annual hajj pilgrimage.A pillar of the Islamic faith, this year's hajj comes with Saudi authorities striving to protect pilgrims from two deadly viruses, Ebola and the MERS coronavirus. Authorities say close to 1.4 million believers have come from abroad to follow the 1,400-year-old tradition of Prophet Mohammed, alongside pilgrims from Saudi Arabia.The Arab News reported that a recent French convert to Islam had driven 7,000 kilometers (4,340 miles) from North Africa to take part in the hajj.Supplementing the 85,000 security and civil defence officers who are reportedly deployed for hajj are thousands of health workers.
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