Pilgrims performing the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia cast pebbles at three stone walls representing Satan in a symbolic rejection of temptation, as Muslims around the world celebrated Islam's biggest holiday, the festival of sacrifice.
The stoning ritual has long been the most hazardous of the hajj. The pilgrims _ nearly 3 million this year _ file past the walls and pelt them with stones. In the heavy traffic, crushes and pileups have killed hundreds, most recently in 2006.
Since then, Saudi authorities have built a giant multistory ramp around the walls, allowing people to stone on five different levels, spreading out the crowd and preventing jams.
This biggest problem this year for pilgrims appeared to be traffic on roads, as the throngs of pilgrims moved between Mina, the nearby holy city of Mecca and other ritual sites.
It appeared that a greater number than usual of "unofficial" pilgrims were performing the hajj this year. These pilgrims sneak in without going through tour groups as required by Saudi authorities and sleep along roadsides in tents during the four days of rituals.
Some buses transporting the crowds couldn't move because they were surrounded by sleeping unofficial pilgrims camped out in parking lots. Further snarling the logistical nightmare, Saudi authorities shut down some roads to vehicles to allow the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims moving on foot to pass.
"We're not going everywhere, everything is blocked," moaned Mohammed Asfar, a 25-year-old Pakistani stuck in a traffic jam trying to get into Mina. "I was expecting a lot more."
The first day of stoning also marks the start of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, or feast of sacrifice, when Muslims around the world slaughter sheep and cattle in remembrance of Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son.
After performing the stoning ritual, pilgrims bought tokens to have a sheep slaughtered and the meat distributed to the poor. The stoning lasts three days until the end of hajj on Sunday.
Saudi King Abdullah, who on Saturday transferred his traditional supervisory duties of the hajj to his deputy prime minister after rupturing a disc in his back, appeared on Saudi television Tuesday receiving Eid al-Adha well-wishers.
"Thank God I am in good health," said the 86-year-old monarch who was seen leaning on a cane.
The department of statistics and general information said in a statement that 2,789,399 people have performed the hajj this year, including 1,799,601 from abroad. It said that is an increase of 11.2 percent compared to last year's 1,618,855 foreign pilgrims.