Makkah (Saudi Arabia)
– Millions of Muslims performing this year’s pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia successfully completed the stoning of the devil on Monday, one of the rites of the exercise hitch-free. The exercise went on without any incident although there was anxiety among the Saudi authorities and pilgrims. It would be recalled that about 3,000 pilgrims of various nationalities died in a stampede during 2015 pilgrimage at the venue of the event.
At least 317 Nigerians were confirmed to have died in the incident while five others who had not been accounted for, were presumed to have died. To avoid a repeat of the ugly incident, the Saudi authorities introduced stringent measures to guide the conduct of pilgrims during the event. The measures included drawing up timetable which allocated time for pilgrims of each country to perform the rite. Also, all pilgrims were required to return to their respective tents in Muna from Arafat instead of proceeding straight to the stoning site and pilgrims would only be allowed at the venue of the stoning in batches of 250.
The authorities had threatened to sanction any pilgrim and country for breach of any of the rules. However, as early as 2 a.m., thousands of pilgrims proceeded to the venue of the stoning after spending a night at Muzdalifah as required. Contrary to the earlier information, security agents did not block any pilgrim but simply ensured that they carried out the rites in an orderly manner. Pilgrims who had returned to their tents in compliance with the earlier directive, soon joined their colleagues. It was not yet clear why the authorities went back on their earlier directive.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians took advantage of the shortage barbers at the pilgrims’ tents to make brisk business. It is required that each male pilgrim shaves his head after stoning the devil. Many of the barbers, who are also pilgrims, were charging between five and 10 Riyals per pilgrim for the service.