Discuss as:

'Mountain of Mercy': Hajj pilgrims make early-morning ascent

Alaa Badarneh / EPA

Muslim pilgrims arrive to pray at the Mountain of Mercy (formally known as Mount Arafat) during the Hajj, in Arafat, Saudi Arabia, on October 24, 2012.

As the sun rose on Thursday morning, hundreds of Muslim pilgrims prayed on a rocky hill known as the Mountain of Mercy, located on the Plain of Arafat near Mecca.

Saudi authorities say around 3.4 million pilgrims — some 1.7 million of them from abroad — have arrived in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for this year's hajj pilgrimage. 

Hassan Ammar / AP

Muslim pilgrims pray on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca, in the early hours of Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.

Hassan Ammar / AP

A pilgrim cries as he prays at sunrise on a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy on Oct. 25, 2012.

Hassan Ammar / AP

Pilgrims climb the Mountain of Mercy on Oct. 25, 2012.

Hassan Ammar / AP

Muslim pilgrims head to Mount Arafat ahead of the hajj main ritual in the holy city of Mecca on Oct. 24, 2012.

Click here to see previous PhotoBlog posts on the hajj.

Follow @NBCNewsPictures

Sign up for the NBCNews.com Photos Newsletter