Mecca clocktower showcases astronomy | AFP

Visitors and tourists flock to the four-storey Clock Tower Museum filled with models and structures on astronomy and galaxies, and line up behind a metal fence overlooking the Kaaba, a black structure inside the Grand Mosque towards which Muslims around the world turn to pray, to take in the panoramic views of the mosque and the sprawling holy city. The Clock Tower is the main high-rise building in a complex of seven towers, comprising some 3,000 hotel rooms and apartments.

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Family photo of states leaders attending the OIC meeting in Mecca | AFP

State leaders attending a summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Mecca pose for a family photo ahead of a meeting called by Saudi Arabia as it ratcheted up tensions with regional rival Iran after a series of attacks. IMAGES

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The Sumo Retirement Plan

“At first, they’re thinking it’s just big fat guys pushing each other,” says Byamba Ulambayar.

“But after they see our show, they respect us.”

Los Angeles wouldn’t seem like an easy place to make a living as a sumo wrestler, but Byamba is proof that it can be done. He’s slowly watched the American appetite for sumo grow over the past few years, both as an athlete and an actor.

Byamba left the Japanese pro circuit long ago, so his most high profile matches now take place in Long Beach, California, which has turned into a kind of sumo Mecca. For the last 19 years, Long Beach has been the home of the U.S. Sumo Open, the longest-running annual sumo tournament outside of Japan. This year’s event was bigger than ever, packing a stadium with over 5,000 people.

Visiting a tournament is like a crash course in Japanese sumo culture – the program booklet handed to patrons contains a brief rundown on sumo rules, and Andrew Freund, the head of the U.S. Sumo Organization, also acts as an evangelizing hype man during the tournament, explaining sumo techniques to the crowd. But as novice-friendly as the tournament is, Freund takes tradition seriously, and regularly makes competitors re-enter the ring after a match is over bow to each other if he thinks they didn’t bow properly the first time.

But amateur sumo trophies don’t pay the bills – which is where Byamba’s second career as an actor comes in. He’s already been in Oceans 13, and plenty of commercials, starring him as, well, a sumo wrestler. And both he and Andrew Freund are hoping that he’ll soon be able to find a career outside of the ring.

VICE News visited this year’s tournament to find out how an American organization may hold the key to an alternative career path for retired Japanese sumo wrestlers.

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‘Green hajj’ slowly takes root in Mecca

Thousands of cleaners are busy separating plastic from other rubbish as more than two million Muslims wrap up the pilgrimage to Mecca that presents a huge environmental challenge for Saudi Arabia. The Mamuniya camp in Mina near the holy city is dotted with colour-coded barrels — black for organic waste and blue for cans and plastics for recycling.

Bangladesh: Eid holidaymakers start leaving Dhaka en masse

Hundreds of people scramble to reach overcrowded trains at a station in Dhaka as Muslims across the world celebrate the annual festival of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of Sacrifice, which marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and commemorates Prophet Abraham’s readiness to sacrifice his son to show obedience to God.

AP Top Stories Aug. 17 P

(17 Aug 2018) Here are the top stories for Friday, August 17th: Funerals held for victims of Italy bridge collapse; Muslims gather in Mecca ahead of Hajj; Trump plans to revoke DOJ official clearance; Fans mourn Aretha Franklin outside her father’s church.

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Muslim worshippers perform prayers around the Kaaba

Muslims worshippers perform prayers around the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city. The hajj, expected to draw more than two million pilgrims to Mecca this year, represents a key rite of passage for Muslims and a massive logistical challenge for Saudi authorities, with colossal crowds cramming into relatively small holy sites.