Makkah, Saudi Arabia – October 26, 2012
The Hajj, meaning “pilgrimage,” occurred from October 24 to October 29, 2012. Once a year from the ninth through the 13th days of Dhu Al-Hijjah on the Muslim lunar calendar, the faithful show their solidarity and submission to Allah by converging at the Sacred Mosque in Makkah (Mecca). This is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and as the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in a lifetime by every Muslim who is capable of doing so. Pilgrims have gathered here every year for 14 centuries to perform rituals based on those conducted by the Prophet Muhammad when he last visited the city. Historically, the pilgrimage was a dangerous one, and many people died on their journey. Conditions improved under King Abdul Aziz Ibn Abdul Rahaman al-Saud, the founder of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and major changes were made to ensure the safety and well-being of the pilgrims.
This image, taken at 10:35 a.m. local time, shows thousands of people who are circling counter clockwise around the Kaaba – the cube-shaped structure in the center of the Sacred Mosque, made of granite from the surrounding hills. The Kaaba, sometimes referred to as “The Noble Cube,” is the most sacred spot in Islam and dictates the Qibla, or prayer direction, of Muslims worldwide. Muslims believe the Kaaba is the oldest religious building in the world, and the sacred black stone is embedded in one of its corners. Pilgrims wear white clothing so no one can distinguish their national origin or socioeconomic status. It is estimated that between 3.16 and 3.65 million pilgrims made their way to Makkah this year, according to Prince Khalid al-Faisal, Governor of the Makkah region.