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The Hajj pilgrimage draws millions of Muslims from around the world every year to Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam's holiest place. Saudi Arabia expects to host perhaps three million people in a ritual journey that every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make at least once in their lifetime. It is the largest annual gathering of humanity anywhere. Timed to the Muslim lunar calendar, the Hajj is followed by the celebrations of the three-day festival of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, which symbolizes Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Collected here are photographs of the Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, as well as images of preparations for the Hajj and Eid al-Adha in many other parts of the Muslim world. -- Lane Turner (42 photos total)
A Muslim pilgrim prays as visits the Hiraa cave at the top of Noor Mountain on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia on November 2, 2011. According to tradition, Islam's Prophet Mohammed received his first message to preach Islam while he was praying in the cave. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

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The Hajj, the fifth pillar of Islam and one of the largest religious pilgrimages in the world, is currently taking place in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Starting last Friday and continuing through Wednesday, some 3 million Muslims from around the globe are participating in several rituals, including the Tawaf -- the circumambulation of the Kaaba, the enormous cube-shaped building in the center of the Masjid al-Haram mosque. The pilgrims are are also taking part in the Sa'i, traveling back and forth between the mountains of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, and Ramy al-Jamarat, in which they throw pebbles at three walls in the city of Mina to show their defiance of the Devil. Directly after the Hajj, Muslims all over the world will observe Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice. The feast honors Abraham who, according to Muslim tradition, was prepared to sacrifice his son Ishmael before God sent a ram in his place. To commemorate this event, worshippers sacrifice sheep, cows, and camels, and share the meat among family, neighbors, and the needy. Collected here are scenes of this year's Hajj and Eid al-Adha, from Mecca and around the globe. [42 photos]

Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims move around the Kaaba, seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on November 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

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