Millions of Muslims performing this year’s pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia continued to observe the rites, with the successful completion of stoning of the devil. The event had caused anxiety among Saudi authorities and pilgrims following the death of about 3,000 pilgrims in a stampede at the venue of the event during 2015 pilgrimage.
At least 317 Nigerians had lost their lives during the incident while five others are still missing. To avoid a repeat of the ugly incident, the Saudi authorities introduced stringent measures to guide the conduct of pilgrims during the event.
They threatened to sanction any pilgrim and country for breach of any of the rules.
The measures include drawing up timetable which allocated time when pilgrims of each country were expected to perform the rite.
Similarly, all pilgrims were required to return to their respective tents in Muna from Arafat instead of proceeding straight to the stoning site.
Also pilgrims would only be allowed to the venue of the stoning in batches of 250.
However, as early as 2:00 a.m., thousands of pilgrims proceeded to the venue of the stoning (Jamrat) after spending a night at Muzdalifah as required.
Contrary to the earlier information of such action attracting a sanction, security agents did not block any pilgrim but simply ensured they carried out the rites in an orderly manner.
Those pilgrims who returned to their tents in compliance with the earlier directive, soon joined their colleagues. It is not yet clear why the authorities went back on their earlier directive.
The exercise, however, went on without any incident. Meanwhile, some Nigerians on Monday turned into barbers as they took advantage of shortage of 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.