Monday for the high point of the annual hajj, praying for an end to disputes and bloodshed.
Officials said they expected around 1.5 million pilgrims to descend on the site, where they were to offer prayers and later in the day to listen to the annual sermon from Saudi top cleric Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh.
Helicopters hovered overhead and thousands of troops stood guard to organise roads flooded by men, women and children streaming towards Mount Arafat.
Chanting “Labaik Allahum Labaik” (I am responding to your call, God), many of them camped in small colourful tents and took shelter under trees to escape temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Special sprinklers were also helping cool the pilgrims.
Numbers are sharply down from last year, due to fears linked to the MERS virus and to multi-billion-dollar expansion work at the Grand Mosque to almost double its capacity to around 2.2 million worshippers.
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