The annual Muslim pilgrimage or hajj came to a close this week. Although 3 million pilgrims were expected in Mecca, less than half that many actually attended due to fears of a deadly virus called the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. Because of the virus Saudi officials limited the number of visas issued to foreign travelers, as well as permits for domestic pilgrims. Tens of thousands without permits were turned away or even arrested if they had participated without permission.
The hajj culminated with worldwide celebrations of Eid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice, one of the most important holidays on the Islamic calendar. Muslims slaughtered livestock and offered prayers to remember Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son.