0606 GMT December 15, 2019
On the esplanade of Mecca's Grand Mosque, the excitement was palpable as crowds from all four corners of the world gathered for a pilgrimage that all able Muslims are required to perform at least once in their lives, AFP wrote.
Wearing the simple garb of the pilgrim, the faithful waited at dawn with their suitcases for buses to take them to Mina five kilometers (three miles) to the east.
There, hundreds of thousands will gather before setting off today at dawn to climb Mount Arafat, the pinnacle of the Hajj.
First, however, they must perform a ritual walk known as the tawaf seven times around the Kaaba, a black masonry cube wrapped in a heavy silk cloth embroidered in gold with Quranic verses at the center of Mecca's Grand Mosque.
The shrine is the point toward which Muslims around the world pray.
Saudi authorities have mobilized vast resources including more than 100,000 security personnel to avoid a repeat of the stampede in 2015 in which thousands of pilgrims were killed.
This year's pilgrimage comes amid a diplomatic crisis between a Saudi-led bloc of Arab countries and Qatar accused of supporting extremist groups. Doha denied the allegation, dismissing the blockade as illegal.
A blockade imposed on Qatar since June 5 has seen sea and air links shut down, preventing many Qataris from making the Hajj.
Although Saudi Arabia relaxed entry restrictions across its land border with the emirate two weeks before the Hajj, Qatar said only a few dozen of its nationals were able to join the pilgrimage.