Some Muslims spend a lifetime saving up enough money to undertake the Hajj, and use the event to take stock of their lives. Others feel God calling to them when they are young, and have the financial resources to go straight away.
Once the decision is made, the first step is to obtain a Hajj visa for Saudi Arabia, which sets visa quotas per country every year. In some countries the resulting waiting lists may run for many years.
Before leaving, all pilgrims must ask the forgiveness of those around them, so that during the Hajj, it remains only to ask forgiveness from God. They must also draw up a last will and testament, and ensure that any outstanding debts are repaid.
Pilgrims also prepare by buying items for their journey, and learning all they need to know about their stay in Mecca and the rituals that take place in and around there.