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Middle East

Muslims gather in Makkah for the Hajj

Nearly three million Muslims have gathered for the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

The white-robed pilgrims began their ascent of the Mountain of Mercy at Arafat at dawn today.

The climb at Arafat is one of the cornerstones of the pilgrimage that is required from every able-bodied Muslim at least once in their lifetime.

It is the site where Islam's Prophet Muhammad delivered his farewell sermon. Muslims believe on this day the doors of heavens open to answer prayers and grant forgiveness.

Saudi authorities have taken new measures to improve crowd management at this hajj - including launching a new light-rail system to transport pilgrims between the shrines.