"I wish for security to be maintained in my country. I pray to God that we in Syria be unified and stand shoulder to shoulder," said sheik Ahmed Garman, 37, who led a group of Syrian pilgrims from Aleppo.
Also planning to climb Arafat were 256 Palestinian prisoners freed in a recent swap for a captured Israeli soldier.
To ease their journey, Egyptian authorities opened the border crossing just for them early Saturday, then buses carried them to Cairo's international airport, where they boarded a Saudi airplane that had been sent for them. Saudi King Abdullah paid for the trip, and some were provided with white robes.
After sunset, the pilgrims will leave Arafat and head to nearby Muzdalifah, where they collect pebbles for the next phase of the pilgrimage — the symbolic stoning of the devil represented by three pillars in Mina, just to the west.
The pilgrims then slaughter a camel, sheep or cow to celebrate the beginning of the Eid al-Adha, or the "Feast of the Sacrifice."
Muslims from around the world wait a lifetime for a chance to make the pious journey in the footsteps of the Prophet Muhammad and Abraham, whom Muslims view as a forefather of Islam.
"I'm very happy today. I can't express my feelings," said Badr Olgach, a 41-year-old construction contractor from Turkey. "I wish and pray for the best, for all the Prophet Muhammad's followers in the world," said the father of two.
Associated Press writer Ben Hubbard in Cairo contributed to this report.
- LDS missionaries developing strategies to...
- 50 things you might not know about 15 of your...
- Judge orders Colo. cake-maker to serve gay...
- Pearl Harbor ceremony marks bombing...
- Nelson Mandela's faith made him a worldwide...
- Space and religion: How believers view latest...
- Utah remembers Pearl Harbor namesake ship,...
- Snow, ice, deep-freeze hit large swath of US
- Obama: Income inequality a defining... 106
- Judge orders Colo. cake-maker to serve... 81
- LDS missionaries developing strategies... 47
- Fast-food strikes return amid push for... 31
- Colorado court hears discrimination... 30
- Utahns react to death of Nelson Mandela 26
- Research: Native American genes have... 23
- Obama declares health care law is... 21