Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90
Gazans wait to cross to Egypt through the Rafah border in the southern Gaza Strip on September 12, 2009. Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing to allow Palestinian Authority Muslims to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah pilgrimage.

For the first time in five years, a small group of the faithful set forth from Gaza on the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca, traveling in buses through the land crossing with Egypt in Rafah at midnight Saturday night.

Nearly 1,100 Gazans in two groups left in coordination with Egyptian authorities, traveling first to Cairo, and then boarding planes to Saudi Arabia for the minor pilgrimage to Mecca known as “Umrah.”

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The major pilgrimage to Mecca that each Muslim is obligated to make at least once in his or her lifetime, is the Haj.

The journey from Gaza, escorted by a joint security force comprised of Egyptian and Palestinian Authority personnel, lasts a total of 48 hours.

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