It's the biggest mass gathering in the world, an integral part of the Muslim faith and provides a big economic boost for Saudi Arabia. But the hundreds of fatalities from this week's stampede and the recent deadly collapse of a crane has highlighted the dangers of "making hajj" to the holy city of Mecca.
At least 717 pilgrims have died and 805 been injured in the stampede in Mina on the outskirts of Mecca, according to Saudi authorities, marking the worst Hajj disaster in 25 years. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has ordered an investigation into the disaster, but the tragedy, coming just two weeks after 100 people were killed when a giant crane at the Grand Mosque collapsed, has cast doubt over Saudi Arabia's ability to manage the massive numbers of pilgrims safely in Mecca.
"It is not the first time a stampede has occurred," Irfan Alawi, the Mecca-born executive director for the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told CNBC on Thursday. "They (the authorities) have failed to address the management issues around the health and safety of visitors."