MECCA // Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has hailed this year's Haj, despite fears of chaos in the wake of the Arab Spring.
"We thank God for the success of this year's Haj, which was the best pilgrimage season to ever pass," Prince Nayef, also the interior minister, told the commanders of the Haj security forces late on Tuesday, the SPA news agency reported.
"Some [pilgrims] were expected to exploit the international and regional changes taking place to cause chaos. But thank God this did not happen. We thank all the pilgrims for proving they are Muslims who respect this rite and for being cooperative." This year's Haj coincided with the Arab Spring that has swept the region.
"What's going on in Syria is painful," said a Syrian pilgrim, Abu Imad. "I'm here for pilgrimage and to pray for myself and my children."
Most of this year's three million Muslim pilgrims had left Mecca yesterday after a farewell walk around the Kaaba, while others completed the "stoning of the devil" ritual. Pilgrims must stone three pillars said to symbolise the devil.
In previous years, hundreds have been trampled to death by crowds trying to get near the pillars. Saudi authorities installed a multi-level walkway to avoid this.