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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

A look at Muslims Pilgrimage to Mecca

Aired January 31, 2004 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Turning now to the Middle East, where tens of thousands of people have traveled to Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat as part of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. The journey, known as the hajj, is required of every Muslim who can afford to make the trip.
Our Rym Brahimi is following the passage.

She joins us now live from Mount Arafat via video phone -- Rym, good morning to you.

RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Heidi.

Indeed, you can see behind me literally this sea of people who have come from all corners of the world just to perform this pilgrimage. It's estimated, we spoke earlier on to the minister of information and he says he believes almost two million pilgrims are here in this area at this stage. More than 1,500,000,000 of them from abroad; the rest of them from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Now, this is, as you know, the most important step in the Muslim pilgrimage because this is where Muslims come to be reborn. This is where they ask for god's forgiveness. They stand -- it's the day of standing -- they stand here in the Plain of Arafat, where the Prophet Mohammed delivered his last speech, or his farewell sermon, if you will. This is where the Prophet asked the people to remember the day of judgment. He asked them to remember the five pillars of their faith and he asked them to remember that everyone is equal. And this is why, Heidi, this is really the place where people look at each other as all equals in front of god -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Rym, I just want to ask you two quick questions, talking a little bit about the security that might be there for such a huge, huge event like this. I'm also wondering, is the mood there on hajj a somber one or more of a celebratory?

BRAHIMI: Well, let's start with the first question. Security has been tightened this year. As you know, there was a police parade the other day. Typically, very, very clearly showing, and I think a very strong message to literally say anyone who messes with this Hajj, anyone who would try to disrupt the Hajj will be in serious trouble. So that was a very clear message.

We've seen some reinforcements with comparison to the previous years. So this seems to be so far under control. There's also a lot of safety measures, including the logistics. The water sprinklers, as you can see, to avoid people from fainting with the heat. A lot of these steps have been taken.

With regard to the mood, it's a bit of everything. Some people take it as a very, very solemn occasion. But I think the celebratory mood will come afterwards, the day after, after they have actually completed this step, which is the most difficult and enduring step, if you will, in the pilgrimage, at that point there will be celebrations because it will also come out on the Muslim festival Daayed (ph) -- Heidi.

COLLINS: All right, Rym Brahimi.

Incredible images there behind you.

Thanks so much.

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