Saudi Arabia said more than 1 million pilgrims from around the world gathered Friday in 111-degree temperatures for Sabbath prayers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, which houses Islam's holiest shrine.
The pilgrims, who came from more than 130 countries, have converged on Mecca for the annual hajj rituals, one of the five sacraments that any able Moslem is required to perform once a lifetime.On Saturday the government described as "lies and fabrication" a report from Iran that hundreds of Moslem pilgrims demonstrated in Mecca on Friday.
Saudi Arabia has been receiving the pilgrims and organizing the hajj this year with extensive security measures to prevent a recurrence of the Iranian political demonstrations in 1987 that led to clashes with the Saudi police and the deaths of 402 people.
The official Saudi Press Agency said thousands of worshipers gathered inside the Grand Mosque, in its expansive courtyard or on its roof. The roof alone has a capacity of 80,000 people, the agency said.
After the Friday prayers at the mosque, which harbors the Kaaba - Islam's most sacred shrine - the worshipers moved three miles away to Mina.
Pilgrims spend the rest of the day in Mina praying in preparation for the culmination of hajj on Saturday.
The agency reported the temperature in Mecca, 25 miles east of Jiddah, was 111 degrees. Jiddah is the kingdom's capital.
Saturday, the ninth day of the month of Zhul-Hijja by Islamic calendar, is earmarked as "Wukuf," or the day of standing, when pilgrims wake at dawn and travel another six miles to Arafat, where they remain, praying, chanting and listening to sermons.