National Geographic : 1953 Jul
Entranced Pilgrims Touch 33 and Kiss the Sacred Kaaba's Mantle One Moslem, shielded by an umbrella, stands before Mecca's House of God in quiet adoration. Beside him, two others kneel to pray before they move close to the black robe. From the group rises the sound of prayers in many tongues. To cope with the crowds Mecca's police must be linguists (page 14). South America; "displaced" Moslems from Romania and Yugoslavia; Moros from the Philippines: nomads from Baluchistan.* Some slouched on camels; many more crowded aboard buses, with a contingent sit ting on the roof; trucks and cars carried full loads; thousands walked. I saw one man carrying his mother picka back the whole long, dusty route. Whether or not he carried her back after the cere monies I never knew, but I think it would have been against her wish, for, like so many aged hadjis, she would have asked no more than the privilege of dying on such holy ground. Her sole concern would have been whether Allah had "accepted" her pilgrimage; vivid in her mind would be the implied promise of the Prophet that her reward for this would be Paradise itself. But she, like all of us, would be aware, too, that the hadj has more than individual significance. To Moslems, indeed, the pilgrimage is the culminating experience of their life within a religious fellowship. Separately or together, but all at the appointed hours, they pray five times each day (page 41). On Fridays they meet at noon in the local mosque for the Mos lem Sabbath. And twice each year, at the festivals of Id al Adha and Id al Fitr, they convene for area-wide celebrations. But it is on the great hadj itself that the Moslem senses most keenly his identity with a global faith. He is urged by the Prophet to come not by himself, nor with a single friend, but in a group. Thus the Moslem emphasizes the brotherhood of man. Surging Sea of 500,000 People When we at last pushed our way onto the plain itself, the great arid waste below the Mount of Mercy was already white with tents and swarming with men and women. Our guide sat on top of the car, with our tent, and argued with the driver as to the best spot to pitch it. They finally found a tiny backwash in this sea of humanity, and there we cast anchor. At 'Arafa, as a mark of respect, men must stand bareheaded until twilight. The sun is overwhelming in its power, awe some and absolute. Most pilgrims interpose an umbrella to its rays, and my father strove fiercely to have me carry one; but I could not obey and still manipulate the camera and * See Map of Southwest Asia, with inset of the Moslem World, a supplement to the June, 1952, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE.