SAUDI ARABIA: Hajjis, finally!
Everyone is absolutely shattered. The men are all limping around comically with blistered feet and chafed thighs, laughing as they compare freshly shaved heads.
Nobody told them it would be this hard. In all their preparations, all their conversations with veteran hajjis, nobody had mentioned the mountains of garbage they walked through in Muzdalifa, or the prospect of marching six miles in cheap sandals through choking crowds desperately trying to keep your group leader's flag in sight.
Several pilgrims have wondered whether there’s some sort of conspiracy of silence at work among hajj survivors.
Maybe people just don’t want to discourage prospective pilgrims; maybe the experience gets rosier upon reflection. Or maybe it’s simply impossible to do these experiences justice with mere words and you simply have to experience it yourself.
Either way, it’s done. It was a religious obligation and it’s done.
For many, it was the hardest thing they’ve ever done, and at times it was sheer misery. But now that it’s over, they’re already getting a little nostalgic.
— Ashraf Khalil in Mecca
Photo: Young California pilgrims relaxing in Mecca after a grueling hajj.