National Geographic : 1966 Jan
44-5). Then, precisely at sunset, as a cannon sounded the signal, every one left at once for the next stop, the village of Mina. Soldiers and policemen, carrying camel sticks and wearing pistol belts over their pilgrim clothes, kept stern order during the exodus. They wrote no tickets, but dragged an occasional offender from his truck and thrashed him soundly with their sticks. In our Land-Rover we ground through the deep sand around the stalled road traffic and the surging crowds, making the six-mile drive to Mind in two hours. Many trucks and buses didn't arrive till next day. Blue Eyes Puzzle a Texas Arab Husain and I checked in at the Taysir, one of several ten-story hotels that have sprung up recently in the small village. "Min fain inta?" asked the young desk clerk. "Where are you from?" He stared suspiciously at my blue eyes. I showed my passport. "America? Y'all from Washin'ton?" he gasped in fluent, southern fried English. "Ah jist lef' Texas less'n two weeks back! Ah'm back heah helpin' in Dad's hotel fuh the rush season." The rush season in Mina lasts only three days. During the rest of the year, I learned, the village is practically empty. That explained the high room rate: $100 a bed in a four-bed room. I was lucky at that. Most of the pilgrims were camped in tents in the bleak basalt hills around the town. Hundreds of thousands more slept on small prayer rugs in the hot dust of the streets. Nonetheless, the days at Mina were happy ones. The rigors of the journey were forgotten in celebration of a successful pilgrimage. Swept along with exuberant crowds, I threw the allotted seven stones at each of three devil pillars in Mina's main street (pages 46-7). These stone col umns mark the places where Moslems believe the devil tried to tempt Abraham to refuse to sacrifice his son as God had commanded. In the end, God provided a ram which Abraham sacrificed instead. That sacrifice survives in tradition. Throughout the day, in the offi cial slaughterhouse just outside town, pilgrims slit the throats of thou sands of sheep, cows, and camels, and distribute the meat to the poor. On the second day at Mina everyday clothes take the place of pilgrim's Glittering minarets spike the sky line of Medina the Radiant, second only to Mecca among the holy cities of Islam. Mohammed spent the last ten years of his life here, after fleeing from Mecca in A.D. 622. Squatting at mahogany benches, scholars consult Arabic texts on science, law, and religion at the Sheik Hagmud Library in Medina. Priceless books and hand-lettered manuscripts crowd the shelves. Time-stained map illustrates a centuries-old Arabic geography. The chart shows fortified cities as red circles and the Indus River flowing through present-day Pak istan on its way to the Arabian Sea. The Sheik Hagmud Library treasures the volume.