Muslim pilgrims visit the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, upon their arrival to Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
Muslim pilgrims visit the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, upon their arrival to Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
A Muslim pilgrim takes a selfie with his wife while standing on top of the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, upon his arrival to Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
A Muslim pilgrim takes a selfie with his wife while standing on top of the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, upon his arrival to Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
Muslim pilgrims pray on top of the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, upon their arrival to Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
Muslim pilgrims pray on top of the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, upon their arrival to Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
Muslim pilgrims take photos on top of the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
Muslim pilgrims take photos on top of the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
Muslim pilgrims visit the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, upon their arrival to Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
Muslim pilgrims visit the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, upon their arrival to Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
Muslim pilgrims pray next to the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, upon their arrival to Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
Muslim pilgrims pray next to the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, upon their arrival to Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage. Picture: Khalil Hamra/AP
Muslim pilgrims gather to pray on and around the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, at Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. Picture: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
Muslim pilgrims gather to pray on and around the Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, at Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. Picture: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
Muslim pilgrims gather praying at and around Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, at Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. Picture: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
Muslim pilgrims gather praying at and around Jabal Al Rahma holy mountain, or the mountain of forgiveness, at Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. Picture: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
Saudi security control the traffic of the Muslim pilgrims' arrival at Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. Authorities have deployed more than 100,000 security forces to secure the hajj and assist pilgrims. Picture: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra
Saudi security control the traffic of the Muslim pilgrims' arrival at Arafat for the annual hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. Authorities have deployed more than 100,000 security forces to secure the hajj and assist pilgrims. Picture: AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

Saudi Arabia - Two million Muslims gathered at Mount Arafat on Thursday for a vigil to atone for their sins and ask God's forgiveness as the annual hajj pilgrimage reaches its climax.

Pilgrims clad in white robes spent the night in an encampment around the hill where Islam holds that God tested Abraham's faith by commanding him to sacrifice his son Ismail and where the Prophet Mohammed gave his last sermon.

Other worshippers who had been praying in the nearby Mina area ascended in buses or on foot from before dawn as security forces directed traffic and helicopters hovered overhead.

Some pilgrims carried umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun. Temperatures were approaching 40 degrees Celsius (104°F).

Men and women from nearly every country in the world gathered side by side, some crying on their neighbour's shoulder.

An elderly Syrian pilgrim sitting on the hilltop shouted out, "Oh God, take revenge on the oppressors". Others assembled around him responded, "Amen."

Awfa Nejm, from a village near Homs, said: "We ask God to protect Syria and its people and return it to the way it was before."

Twenty-seven year old Amin Mohammed from Nigeria said he was praying for peace in his country.

Saudi Arabia has said more than two million pilgrims, most of them from outside Saudi Arabia, have arrived for the five-day ritual, a religious duty once in a lifetime for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey.

The pilgrims will spend the day on Mount Arafat to atone for their sins and seek God's mercy.

By sunset they will move to the rocky plain of Muzdalifa to gather pebbles to throw at stone columns symbolising the devil at another location called Jamarat on Friday, which marks the first day of Eid al-Adha (feast of sacrifice).

A crush in 2015 which killed hundreds occurred when two large groups of pilgrims arrived together at a crossroads in Mina, a few kilometres east of Mecca, on their way to Jamarat. It was the worst disaster to strike hajj for at least 25 years.

Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam's holiest sites - Mecca and Medina - and organising the pilgrimage.

Officials say they have taken all necessary precautions this year, with more than 100 000 members of the security forces and 30 000 health workers on hand to maintain safety and provide first aid.

Saudi state television on Thursday showed a new kiswa, the cloth embroidered with verses from the Qur'an, being placed over the Kaaba in Mecca's Grand Mosque. Pilgrims will return to pray there at the end of hajj.