Prayer rugs on top of Noor Mountain, where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God to preach Islam, on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
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Close to two million pilgrims have converged on western Saudi Arabia for the annual hajj where new measures aim to prevent a recurrence of last year's stampede which killed around 2,300 .The stampede legacy has contributed to renewed tensions between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran, which is not sending pilgrims for the first time in nearly three decades.While the main rites of the six-day event begin Saturday, pilgrims have already been swirling around the holy Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, in a procession that continues day and night.The Saudi Gazette Friday quoted mosque officials as saying the circumambulation area has been expanded to hold about 30,000 pilgrims an hour, up from 19,000 .With temperatures of 43 Celsius (110 Fahrenheit) as they marched, some pilgrims seemed faint.Saudi Arabia also has an economic stake in pilgrims.
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