Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque, before leaving for the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, early Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
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More than 2 million Muslims began the annual hajj pilgrimage at first light Sunday in Saudi Arabia, circling the cube-shaped Kaaba in Mecca that Islam's faithful face five times each day during their prayers.The five-day hajj pilgrimage represents one of the world's biggest gatherings every year, and is required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life.The hajj offers pilgrims an opportunity to feel closer to God amid the Muslim world's many challenges, including the threat of violence and extremists in the Mideast and the plight of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya minority.Mecca's Grand Mosque, the world's largest, encompasses the Kaaba and the two hills.Around the world, Muslims will mark the end of hajj with a celebration called Eid al-Adha.Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, the spokesman of the Saudi Interior Ministry, told journalists Saturday that over 2 million Muslims from abroad and inside the kingdom would be taking part in this year's hajj.
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