Arafat Day is the second day of the week-long Hajj pilgrimage that many Muslims from UAE and elsewhere go on every year.
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Hajj runs from the 8th to the 12th or 13th day of the Islamic lunar month of Dhul Hijja, the final month of the Islamic year. Arafat Day occurs on the 9th day of Dhul Hijja, just about 70 days after the end of Ramadan. The day immediately following Arafat Day is the first of three to four consecutive festival days known as “Eid Ul Adha.”
As Hajj begins, thousands of people in UAE, and elsewhere in the Islamic world will assemble and march in “pilgrimage processions.” Ultimately, the destination is Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Islam’s holiest city. The events of Hajj and of Arafat day, therefore, take place outside of UAE, though numerous Emirati citizens are involved.
In Mecca, various rituals are performed, including circling the “black box” known as the Kaaba, which contains a meteorite (black stone) thought to have been placed there by the angel Gabriel.
On Arafat Day, hundreds of thousands gather on the hill called Mount Arafat and the plain it overlooks. This is the site where, it is believed, Muhammad gave his “farewell address” near the end of his life. In the sermon, he declared that the religion of Islam was now perfected, and this statement became a very famous verse of the Koran. The pilgrims hold a vigil on Mount Arafat, standing there all night long, praying, and reading the Koran. Later, they symbolically stone the Devil by casting stones at three pillars, shave their heads, and offer animal sacrifices.
In the UAE, Arafat Day and Eid Al Adha are public holidays, and people often have as much as a full week off work during this time period. Those who can’t go on pilgrimage will instead attend mosque, fast, and offer extra prayers at home. Travel will be hectic during this time period, as thousands make their ways to and from Mecca, and many businesses will be closed.