Manama: More than three million Muslims are performing Haj pilgrimage this year, official Saudi Arabia figures indicate.

According to the General Statistics and Information, 3,161,573 people started the annual rituals on Wednesday.

Foreigners made up more than half of the figure with 1,752,932 from 189 countries while the number of Saudi nationals and Saudi Arabia-based expatriates was 1,408,641.

Most of the Saudi-based pilgrims were expatriate Muslims working in the kingdom.

Officials said that they used the latest technologies available to determine the number of pilgrims.

Islam requires all physically fit and financially able Muslims to perform Haj at least once in their lives.

The Haj areas are the Grand Mosque in Makkah where pilgrims circumnavigate the Kaaba seven times, and the suburbs of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa where they spend time praying.

The rituals are performed between the 8th and 13th days of Dhu Al Hijja, the 12th month of the lunar Islamic calendar.

As the Islamic calendar is 354 days, the Haj season moves down by 11 days every year.

The next Haj season is expected to be from October 13 to 17.