Arbaeen pilgrimage in Iraq: 17.5 million defy threat

Shiite faithful pilgrims gather between the holy shrine of Imam Hussein and the holy shrine of Imam Abbas during the preparations for the Muslim festival of Arbaeen in Karbala.

Iraqi officials have said this year's Arbaeen Shiite pilgrimage was the biggest on record, despite the security threat posed by the presence in some parts of the country of the Islamic State group.

The Arbaeen Shiite pilgrimage, which reached its climax Saturday, is held every year on the 20th day of the second month in the Islamic calendar in the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala.
   
It marks the end of a 40-day period of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam, who was beheaded in 680 AD.
   
Iraqi officials have said this year's Arbaeen was the biggest on record, despite the security threat posed by the presence in some parts of the country of the Islamic State group.

   


Here are some figures showing the scope of this event, surpassed in size only by the Kumbh Mela Hindu festival, which is held every three years.
   
 - 17.5 million: People who made the Arbaeen pilgrimage to Karbala this year, according to the defence minister. Among them 4.5 million foreigners, including at least one million Iranians.
     
- 40,000: Security forces deployed across the city for the occasion, according to Karbala operations command.
    
- 8: Confirmed number of deaths related to the pilgrimage: one by mortar fire west of the city, four in incidents related to crowd management at the Iranian border and three in a bomb blast targeting pilgrims in Baghdad.
     
- 700: The total number of hotels in Karbala -- all fully booked, according to the governor.
    
- 12: Average number of days it takes pilgrims to walk from the southern city of Basra to Karbala.
     
- 7,000: Number of "mawakeb" -- spots in Karbala where volunteers have set up tents serving food and beverages to the pilgrims.
    
- 10,000: Number of volunteer cleaners sent by the Tehran municipality to handle the waste generated by the pilgrims. It also sent 60 rubbish trucks to Karbala.
    
- 32,000: Number of meals served in a day about 50 metres (yards) from the shrine at one Iranian "mawkab" (singular form of mawakeb).
     
- 90,000: Number of pieces of flatbread produced in eight hours at this mawkab by a special machine, whose owner -- Ali Sabri from the Iranian city of Tabriz -- has vowed to donate to Karbala.


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