MECCA, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- More than 2 million pilgrims have gathered in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia to perform initial rites of the hajj, an Islamic pilgrimage that takes the faithful along a path traversed by the Prophet Muhammad some 1,400 years ago.
The hajj in Islam is meant to unify Muslims, with pilgrims shedding displays of wealth and materialism.
Male pilgrims wearing simple terry cloth white garments and women in conservative dress and headscarves are circling the cube-shaped Kaaba on Friday.
The pilgrimage this year takes place amid a backdrop of political and sectarian tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran and conflicts still flare in Yemen, Syria and Libya. Muslim minorities around the world also face increased threats, including in Indian-administered Kashmir, where a sweeping curfew is in effect.