Millions of Muslim worshipers converge each year near the Saudi holy city of Mecca as part of the annual hajj. The crowded paths have proved dangerous: More than 3,500 pilgrims have died during the observance since 1990.

Thursday’s stampede in the desert valley of Mina, which killed more than 700 people, was the deadliest event in the past quarter-century. Despite Saudi Arabia’s efforts in recent years to improve safety close to the Jamarat Bridge, where the ritual of the stoning of the devil takes place, the tragedy demonstrates a lack of safety in the tent city nearby.

The tragedy happened on one stage of the hajj

Millions of Muslim worshipers converge each year near the Saudi holy city of Mecca as part of the hajj pilgrimage, a religious requirement that Muslims must fulfill at least once, if they are physically able and have the financial means.

Mina is where most pilgrims stay during the hajj. The stampede occurred in the tent village area as worshipers were trying to approach the Jamarat Bridge.

Jamarat Bridge

and the walls that

pilgrims stone

MINA

Mina Towers

Stampede site

Pilgrim

tent city

Pilgrim

tent city

MINA

One crowd was moving southwest on

Street 223.

 

 

The other

crowd was moving northwest on

Street 204.

The crush

in the intersection resulted in

717 deaths.

One crowd was moving southwest on

Street 223.

 

 

The other crowd was moving northwest on

Street 204.

The crush in the intersection resulted in

717 deaths.

Jamarat Bridge

and the walls that

pilgrims stone

Mina Towers

Stampede site

Pilgrim

tent city

MINA

One crowd was moving southwest on

Street 223.

 

 

The other crowd was moving northwest on

Street 204.

Jamarat Bridge

and the walls that

pilgrims stone

The crush in the intersection resulted in

717 deaths.

Mina Towers

Stampede site

Pilgrim

tent city

MINA

Six stages must be completed

Grand mosque

Pilgrims circle the Kaaba

seven times

Mina

First stop

Mount Arafat

Pilgrims pray at place of prophet

Muhammad’s last sermon

Muzdalifah

Pilgrims collect the pebbles that

will be needed the next day

for the stoning in Mina.

The stampede ocurred while

the pilgrims walked toward

the Jamarat.

Mina

Worshipers throw pebbles at

the three Jamarat pillars,

representing the devil

Last stop

The hajj pilgrimage ends with the

return to Mecca to circle the

Kaaba seven more times

Mina

Mount Arafat

Grand mosque

Pilgrims circle the

Kaaba seven times

First stop

Pilgrims pray at

place of prophet

Muhammad’s

last sermon

Last stop

Mina

Muzdalifah

Pilgrims collect the

pebbles that will be

needed the next

day for the stoning

in Mina

The hajj pilgrimage

ends with the return

to Mecca to circle the

Kaaba seven more times

Worshipers throw

pebbles at the

three Jamarat pillars,

representing the devil

The stampede

ocurred while the

pilgrims walked

toward the Jamarat

Grand mosque

Mina

Mount Arafat

Pilgrims circle the Kaaba seven times

First stop

Pilgrims pray at place of prophet

Muhammad’s last sermon

Muzdalifah

Last stop

Mina

The stampede ocurred

while the pilgrims walked

toward the Jamarat

Pilgrims collect the

pebbles that will

be needed the

next day for the

stoning in Mina

The hajj pilgrimage

ends with the return

to Mecca to circle

the Kaaba seven

more times

Worshipers throw

pebbles at the

three Jamarat pillars,

representing the devil

A dangerous stage: Crossing the tent city

In the past, pilgrims would bring their own tents, but today there are close to 100,000 permanent, air-conditioned tents for most of the roughly 3 million yearly visitors. Because of these crowds and the Mina area’s narrow roads, this part of the journey is one of the most dangerous.

(Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP)

(Ahmad Masood/Reuters)

A safer complex at the Jamarat Bridge

In recent years, Saudia Arabia's efforts have been focused on improving the safety of the area near the Jamarat Bridge. It is the largest pedestrian bridge in the world. Originally constructed in 1963, it has been expanded several times.

After more than 360 people were fatally trampled in 2006, part of the bridge was demolished. Construction began on a new multi-level bridge designed to allow safe access for large crowds. It is also equipped with helipads, multiple exits and water sprinklers.

al-Aqaba

al-Wusta

al-Ula

N

0

FEET

400

2007

2004

PILLARS TO WALLS

Originally, the pillars that symbolized Satan were round and narrow, which made it harder for worshipers to hit and fulfill their ritual. In 2004, the pillars were replaced with long elliptical walls.

In 2007, the structures were expanded upward through three openings in the bridge. Pilgrims can now access them from multiple levels.

al-Aqaba

al-Wusta

al-Ula

N

0

FEET

400

PILLARS TO WALLS

2004

2007

Originally, the pillars that symbolized Satan were round and narrow, which made it harder for worshipers to hit and fulfill their ritual. In 2004, the pillars were replaced with long elliptical walls.

In 2007, the structures were expanded upward through three openings in the bridge. Pilgrims can now access them from multiple levels.

Originally, the pillars that symbolized Satan were round and narrow, which made it harder for worshipers to hit and fulfill their ritual. In 2004, the pillars were replaced with long elliptical walls.

In 2007, the structures were expanded upward through three openings in the bridge. Pilgrims can now access them from multiple levels.

One of the deadliest incidents in recent decades

The stampede on Thursday was the largest since the 1990 tragedy, when about 1,400 pilgrims suffocated or were trampled to death in a tunnel outside the city. Since then, more than 3,500 pilgrims have died.