Manama: Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry said that 1,379,531 foreigners from 188 countries have arrived in the kingdom to perform Haj (pilgrimage) this year.

The number of men was 752,424, representing 55 per cent of the foreign pilgrims not based in Saudi Arabia, while 627,107 women made up 45 per cent of the total number, the interior minister Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz said, quoted by local daily Al Eqtisadiya on Monday.

However, the figure for this year is 21 per cent less than that of last year following measures to reduce the number of pilgrims as the Grand Mosque is undergoing massive construction work that has limited space.

The overwhelming majority of the pilgrims, almost 1.3 million, arrived in Saudi Arabia by air while 72,535 made it to the sacred city of Makkah and its outskirts by land and 14,898 arrived by sea to Jeddah.

The number of pilgrims is expected to be between 2.5 and three million after including the men and women based in Saudi Arabia who will perform Haj this year.

The Haj season started on Sunday when the pilgrims moved to the tent city of Mina in the suburbs of Makkah.

Pilgrims on Monday stood on Mount Arafat where they spent the day in prayers and supplications.

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