Tens of thousands of Muslim piligrims perform the evening prayer in the holy city's Grand Mosque on November 2, 2011. (Fayez Nureldine / AFP)
MECCA, November 3, 2011 (AFP) - The annual Hajj pilgrimage which will peak on Saturday as the faithful gather in the plain of Mount Arafat, outside Mecca in the kingdom's west, is the world's largest annual gathering.
Key numbers for the hajj this year:
- An estimated 2.5 million pilgrims are gathering in Mecca this year -- 1.8 million from abroad and 700,000-800,000 from inside Saudi Arabia.
- Every Muslim country has a hajj quota of 1,000 pilgrims per million inhabitants and the biggest contingent -
- 200,000 pilgrims -- will come from Indonesia.
- Saudi Arabia is deploying some 63,000 security forces, including 3,500 anti-riot policemen backed by 450 armoured vehicles, while the civil defence is deploying 22,000 forces and 6,000 vehicles.
- Some 1,500 CCTV cameras have been installed in and around Mecca's Grand Mosque and 29 police stations will be open to serve the holy places.
- Some 20,000 health workers have been mobilised to cope with any emergency and five rescue helicopters also have been readied to serve the faithful.
- More than 12,000 male and female guides known as "mutawif" help organise the pilgrims' stay.
- The Grand Mosque at the centre of Mecca, where pilgrims gather to pray and circle the cubic Kaaba building, covers 368,000 square meters (3,961,119 square miles) and can hold more than 1.5 million people.
- The Kaaba rests on a marble base and is built from granite, and has a door made from 280 kilos (616 pounds) of pure gold. The black silk kiswa covering, made anew every year, is embroidered with holy phrases using 150 kilos (330 pounds) of gold and silver thread.