This past fall, I had the opportunity to take my mother to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the holy pilgrimage of Hajj. The Hajj is one of the largest gatherings of people on earth with about 2 million people making the journey each year. It's one of the pillars of Islam, and every Muslim is supposed to make this pilgrimage once in his or her lifetime if he or she is financially capable. I didn't want my photography to interfere with my spiritual journey, so I made sure that I took photos only after I performed the necessary religious duties. But taking pictures is also the way I see the world, so part of me wanted to photograph all that was around me.
What was incredibly beautiful to see was the love between the pilgrims regardless of color or country. I met Muslims who journeyed from Burkina Faso, the Philippines, China, Italy, and Spain. I met so many people with so many different stories. The ones who stood out the most to me was a husband and wife in their 70s from India, Ahmed and Fatima, who told me they had been saving up for Hajj for the last 40 years. Ahmed said it was his main worry in life, and now, when they do die, they can die in peace.
All my life I've been praying toward Mecca, but I only ever saw the Kabah in pictures and videos. It's hard to explain how overwhelming it was to see the Kabah. I can't remember the last time I cried before this, but when I laid eyes on the Kabah for the first time, I was unable to stop.
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