RELIGION

AP PHOTOS: Faithful await hajj on historic Saudi mountaintop

  • A Turkish Muslim woman prays inside Hiraa cave, where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God to preach Islam, on Noor Mountain, on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Muslim pilgrims have begun arriving at the holiest sites in Islam ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

    A Turkish Muslim woman prays inside Hiraa cave, where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God to preach Islam, on Noor Mountain, on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Muslim pilgrims have begun arriving at the holiest sites in Islam ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)  (The Associated Press)

  • Women sit on steps of Noor Mountain, where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God to preach Islam, on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Muslim pilgrims have begun arriving at the holiest sites in Islam ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

    Women sit on steps of Noor Mountain, where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God to preach Islam, on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Muslim pilgrims have begun arriving at the holiest sites in Islam ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)  (The Associated Press)

  • Men sit on steps of Noor Mountain, where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God to preach Islam, on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Muslim pilgrims have begun arriving at the holiest sites in Islam ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

    Men sit on steps of Noor Mountain, where Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God to preach Islam, on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. Muslim pilgrims have begun arriving at the holiest sites in Islam ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)  (The Associated Press)

Muslims awaiting the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage have climbed a historic mountaintop looking over the holy city of Mecca, taking in its modern sights from a place revered in Islamic history.

The Quran holds that the Prophet Muhammad heard his first revelation from God while atop Noor Mountain. On Friday, the faithful visited Hiraa cave, believed to be where the prophet prayed and received the divine inspiration to preach and spread Islam.

The journey up Noor Mountain isn't easy, though children played on the stone steps ascending its side, the rooftops of modern Mecca visible below. Once at the top, worshippers stopped to pose for photographs at the cave's mouth.

Others prayed facing down to Mecca's Grand Mosque, home to the cube-shaped Kaaba shrine that all of Islam's 1.6 billion followers pray toward five times a day. The tip of the Mecca Royal Clock Tower Hotel could be seen rising above the rolling mountains surrounding the city.

On Saturday, more than 2 million worshippers are expected to begin the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, an act of faith required of all able-bodied Muslims once in their life.

Here is a selection of images by Associated Press photographer Nariman El-Mofty showing the faithful atop Noor Mountain and in Mecca ahead of the start of the hajj.

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Follow Nariman El-Mofty on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NMofty and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/narimanelmofty .

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