Pilgrims have been saying their farewells at Cairo airport before leaving for Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj in the tradition, they believe, of the Prophet Mohammed and Abraham before him.
Every year tens of thousands of Egyptians apply for visas to travel to Mecca to join more than a million Muslims from across the world at the pilgrimage.
“When I was chosen, I couldn’t believe it,” says Afaf Hasan Rifai, who was selected by Egypt’s authorities to perform the hajj to start early next month.
“I started crying and I prostrated to God,” she says, her beaming husband standing next to her outside the terminal late on Thursday.
Nearby a policeman pushes a wheelchair carrying an elderly women with a cane into the terminal.
Every Muslim who can undertake the journey is expected to perform the pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime, but it can also be performed on behalf of another follower of the faith who is unable to do so.
Muslims have travelled to Mecca for the hajj since the 7th Century, when God is believed to have ordained it in the Koran.
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