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More than a million Muslims flock to Mecca for the hajj

Beginning on Sept. 9, and ending Wednesday the 14th, the hajj is taking place in Saudi Arabia. An estimated 1.3 million Muslims are traveling on their hajj this year (which is actually significantly lower than in the past because of safety concerns, but we'll get to that).

The holy sites Mecca and Medina are drawing thousands and thousands of people.

What is the hajj?

The hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, a requirement for every Muslim to visit the holy city Mecca and to carry out the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime if they are physically and financially able to.

Pilgrims retrace the steps of prophets, like Abraham, and use the experience as a chance to build community and pray to Allah, or God.

Why are there fewer people this year?

Last year, more than 2,400 people were killed in a stampede -- making the deadliest experience at hajj in history. That incident itself has kept people from attending, but there are bigger reasons why.

Saudi Arabia and other surrounding Arab countries are suffering from the fall of global oil prices which has cut state spending for things like paying for residents' hajj experience.

Iran, has also boycotted the hajj in Saudi Arabia due to their faltering relationship, and is banning their citizens from going on the pilgrimage. Typically Iranians make up around 7 percent of the total number of pilgrims so that is certainly hurting the total number.

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More than a million Muslims flock to Mecca for the hajj

Allison Hollender

Allison is originally from Fresno, California, but made her way to the beautiful Central Coast, where she is a student at UC Santa Cruz, earning a degree in both history and politics, working as a reporter for City on a Hill Press, and guzzling gallons of coffee. She is a lover of television and all things Amy Poehler. Follow her embarrassing attempts at jokes on Twitter @alleyrenee16.

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