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  • It's 3 in the morning in The Mecca

  • and this is about as quiet as it gets

  • Hajj is the largest annual pilgrimage in The World.

  • It happens in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

  • and for Muslims it's a requirment that you have to do once in your lifetime

  • The Saudi government estimated that last year

  • there were over 3 million pilgrims who attended

  • but the unofficial number is much higher

  • My parents are originally from Lahora, Pakistan

  • They are practicing Muslims

  • And, last year they decided it was time for them to perform Hujj.

  • So, I went with them to help them with their journey

  • But, also for myself as well.

  • It was the first time for all of us

  • and I didn't go thinking I was gonna make a VBS documentary

  • I just took the smallest camera we had in the office

  • and literally shot from the hip. You're not allowed to shoot in most of the holy places

  • So, this is the footage I managed to sneak out.

  • We flew out on Saudi Arabian Airlines. It was about a 10 hour flight.

  • from JFK to Medina

  • Where we spent 6 days getting mentally prepared

  • for the Hujj that we were about to embark on.

  • [MEDINA, SAUDI ARABIA] In Pre-islamic times, Medina was a place

  • where the travelers who were crossing the desert

  • in camel caravans would come to rest

  • It was kind of like a desert oasis.

  • In modern times it's kind of the same thing, but less camels

  • and more shopping malls and hotels.

  • There's also a stunning mosque there

  • called The Prophets Masjid

  • Which is the 2nd holiest site in Islam

  • When you're there, you're basically just go to the mosque

  • five times a day for six days straight

  • to get into meditative state

  • The mosque is huge. It holds almost 700,000 people.

  • And when we were there for the Friday prayer

  • it was pretty much full

  • Flying to Mecca from Medina was really interesting

  • Before we went to the airport, we cleansed ourselves in a very specific way

  • we had to put on a white seamless garment made out of terry cloth

  • that all the pilgrims have to wear

  • it's a renunciation of the life that you come from

  • it's supposed to put everyone on the same level

  • There's no upper class or lower class.

  • Everyone's the same- it's just you in the sheet and that's it.

  • This is called getting into a state of eran

  • Besides the clothes, there are a lot of other rules.

  • You can't smoke, you can't have sex, you can't shave. You can't cut your nails

  • and there are a bunch of other no no's

  • So, we got on this charter just for the pilgrims

  • ten minutes after the plane took off from Medina

  • the captain announced that we flown over a designation point

  • and we were in the zone near Mecca

  • we all had to start reciting a prayer

  • our group guide got onto the loud speaker system of the airplane

  • and started yelling the prayer- everyone started chanting it

  • I had a moment where I looked around

  • and saw all these men and women in the white robes- men with their beards

  • and just thought: if someone from the west could see us right now

  • they'd think we were a bunch of fanatical jihadis

  • on some kind of an insa ne mission

  • when in reality, it's just pilgrims who decided to go on a

  • a spiritual quest

  • I think what was most odd about this flight

  • were the flight attendants who were all filipino- wearing

  • their normal Saudi flight attendant outfits

  • looking like they would rather have any other gig in The World than this one.

  • We landed in Jeddah and took a bus into Mecca

  • That ride into the city was one of the wilder scenes I've ever seen in my life.

  • There were all these pilgrims coming from all directions

  • All kinds of vehicles

  • You see them riding on the tops of cars and vans and buses

  • I remember seeing a pilgrim jumping from the roof of one bus to another

  • and he's just trying to get to the city

  • Mecca is not a very big city

  • during the year it's a relatively mellow place

  • except during the week of Hujj

  • The city completely transforms

  • Half the challenge of completing your Hujj

  • is getting all these rituals done

  • in a very strict timeline

  • and dealing with the fact that there are about 300 million other people there

  • to try and do the exact same thing at the same time

  • After we checked into our hotel in Mecca

  • we walked towards the grand mosque which is also known as the

  • [MASJID AL-HARAM: THE GRAND MOSQUE] Masjid Al-Haram. It's the holiest place in Islam

  • [MASJID AL-HARAM: THE GRAND MOSQUE] and it's a massive structure

  • [MASJID AL-HARAM: THE GRAND MOSQUE] this mosque can hold upwards of 4 million people

  • [MASJID AL-HARAM: THE GRAND MOSQUE] with its outdoor and indoor space

  • during Hujj, it's technically the largest gathering of people in The World

  • at any given time

  • This mosque is what muslims pray towards from all over The World.

  • As you're walking towards it- you feel the anticipation build

  • people have been waiting their whole lives to come to this place

  • once you enter the mosque, you see the kaaba

  • The kaaba is a black box in the center of the grand mosque

  • it was built around 2,000 BC

  • people have been praying towards it since before Islam started

  • When Mohammad finally showed up

  • he cleaned up the place. Got rid of all the idols the pagans had been worshipping

  • and reordained the building as The House of God

  • So, in the grand mosque we had to do our first ritual

  • which is called the toaf

  • which is basically doing seven counter clockwise laps around the kaaba

  • It's kind of like being in a moshpit with hundreds of thousands of people

  • But, instead of it being full of angry young punk kids

  • we were up against aggressive, pushy bangladeshi grandmothers

  • I had my parents on each arm interlocked

  • and we held each other as we went around the structure seven times.

  • Staring at the kaaba

  • it's a very intense and heavy vibe

  • but the one thing that's a total bummer is, you look up

  • and all you see are these

  • massive luxury five star hotels for the super rich muslims

  • who want to pray from the confines of their room.

  • After running around the kaaba seven times

  • you have to do a bunch of other rituals before completing your Hujj.

  • You have five days to get it done, and it's kind of like being

  • You have a checklist, you have to be smart, and you have to use strategy in order to make this happen on schedule.

  • You have to do the sai

  • Which is walking an running back and forth between two hills

  • Back in the day it used to be outdoors. And now it's been turned into

  • an indoor structure with two very, very long corridors

  • You have to spend a day at mount arafat

  • It's where the prophet delivered his last sermon from.

  • You spend the day in prayer and contemplation

  • and you beg for forgiveness for all of your sins.

  • It's a very important day.

  • And after spending the majority of it in a tent

  • I walked out and went into the direction of the mountain

  • I walked through this wild scene with people everywhere

  • camped out with their animals

  • As I got closer to Mount Arafat

  • it was such an incredible sight

  • because it had been completely transformed

  • and looked like a snow covered peak

  • Our tour group operator before we went on this trip gave us some guidelines

  • and the last point on this sheet said

  • Be patient, be very patient, be very very patient.

  • I fully grasped the meaning of this

  • when we had to take a three kilometer bus ride

  • and it ended up taking eight hours

  • It was the middle of night and we had to collect stones

  • it was one of our rituals in a place called Muslifa

  • We got off the bus and navigated our way

  • around sleeping bodies all over the ground

  • found the stones and then it was time to pray

  • and so we just threw the prayer rugs down on the side of the highway

  • and hit the mats.

  • After picking up the stones we got back on the bus

  • and drove to Mina

  • The valley of Mina is where the majority of the pilgrims stay.

  • It's a tense city

  • That fills up with the population of Seattle for a week

  • and after Hujj ends, it clears out again and goes away

  • It's tents as far as the eye can see.

  • We arrived in Mina, and that's where we had to

  • stone satan- that's the next ritual

  • this one was actually a lot of fun

  • We had to throw twenty-one stones

  • seven at three separate satan stoning stations

  • and I finally got to see what satan looks like

  • Up until a couple years ago

  • Satan looked like three large pillars

  • sticking up out of a large pit.

  • But, the space wasn't big enough

  • and there was a stampede and people died

  • so the Saudi government

  • They built three ramps the size of a mulit-lane highway

  • and there were three pillars inside of it that represent the devil.

  • They're lit in shades of green

  • and there's a strange rumbling loud sound coming out of them.

  • As my Dad pointed out- the whole thing made satan seem quit surreal

  • Before we finished the Hujj

  • We had to repeat some of the rituals that we'd already done.

  • We had to revisit satan

  • Throw rocks at him two more times

  • We had to go back to Mecca from Mina

  • And do another seven counter clockwise laps.

  • Then it was time for Eid

  • which marks the official end of Hujj

  • and is a big celebration.

  • It's the end of the state of eran that we've been in

  • and we slaughter an animal to celebrate it

  • And then the last thing you do

  • is, you shave your head.

  • This is the line for the barbershop

  • This is the line

  • Soon they will all be bald- all of these men.

  • The barbershops in Mecca have these massive lines outside of them

  • and you see

  • Hundreds of thousands of baldos walking around town.

  • Those people have all succeeded in completing their Hujj .

  • Dealing with the Hujj every year is a huge

  • legistial challenge for the Saudi Government.

  • So they sat up a ministy of H ujj

  • In the past, there have been incidences

  • where pilgrims were trampled, when ramps collapsed, and pilgrims died.

  • The Saudi govt. has invested billions of dollars

  • to create an infrastructure to make this work

  • with complex crowd-control techniques

  • What I saw when I went last year

  • was something that somehow manages to work.

  • But, it kind of goes without saying bringing 3 million people

  • to such a small place

  • is going to bring up some complications

  • There's a bit of a dark side

  • This many people in such a small place

  • it really gets unwieldy.

  • Despite the saudi govt's best efforts to deal with this profound

  • logistical challenge

  • The bottom line is that there are too manhy people.

  • And people need things

  • They need places to sleep.

  • They need food.

  • They need toilets.

  • The poor people that are there- you see them camped out on the side of the road.

  • For days on end.

  • It really felt like Mecca was maxing out by the end of Hujj.

  • The whole scene starts looking and feeling rather apocolyptic.

  • No matter where all these people come from

  • No matter what they do or how rich or poor they might be

  • During this pilgrimage to Mecca, I felt like everyone was just the same.

  • It was unlike any place I've ever been

  • or unlike anything I've ever experienced.

  • I was there standing amongst millions of people

  • I was there with my family.

  • On some level I felt like I was all alone.

  • On a personal trek

  • Everyday life felt like it was hundreds of thousands of miles away

  • We flew back to NY, we landed in the morning

  • And I went straight back to the Vice offices

  • Which may not have been the wisest of ideas

  • I felt like I had been catapulted from one end of the universe to the other.

It's 3 in the morning in The Mecca

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サウジのメッカ巡礼 - Mecca Diaries

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    阿多賓 posted on 2013/10/23
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