Eid al-Adha, in Mina, 2013
Eid al-Adha, in Mina, 2013Reuters

Two million Muslims ritually stoned the devil Saturday in the last major rite of this year's hajj in Saudi Arabia, while fellow believers around the world celebrated Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice.

The stoning occurred in Mina, about five kilometers (three miles) east of the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca.

All roads leading to Mina, a city that only comes to life during the days of hajj, were blocked as the crowds dressed in white flowed into the area.

They crowded into a five-story structure that resembles a parking garage, and from there tossed pebbles at one of three walls representing Satan.

As pilgrims tried to push forward, security officers formed a human chain around part of the wall where space had been left for the elderly and disabled.

The heat and the crowds only added to "the joy of carrying out the rites", Mohsen al-Omar, a Jordanian resident of Saudi Arabia, said with sweat running down his face.

The pilgrims, who collected the pebbles at Muzdalifah on the way to Mina, will stone two other sites on Sunday and Monday as the hajj concludes.

The ritual emulates “the prophet Abraham,” who is said to have stoned the devil at three locations when he tried to dissuade Abraham from God's order to sacrifice his son.

At the last moment, God spares the boy, sending a sheep to be sacrificed in his place.

Pilgrims reached Mina overnight following a day of prayer on Mount Arafat, where the prophet Mohammed is believed to have given his final sermon 14 centuries ago.

After their day on the vast plain of Arafat and the hill that bears its name, the believers' white costumes bore brown dirt stains.

Male pilgrims wear a seamless two-piece white "ihram," while women also generally wear white.

With the hajj concluding, men shaved their heads before taking off their ihrams, leaving locks scattered on the ground. Women cut off small strands of their hair.

In conjunction with the stoning, the hajj faithful offer sacrifices by slaughtering a sheep, whose meat goes to the needy.