Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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SAUDI ARABIA: United colors of hajj

December 7, 2007 |  3:44 am

This is a subject we’ll be exploring more in a future story, but I wanted to share a quick first impression of the incredible ethnic diversity on display during the days leading up to the hajj.

I knew it would be like this. But nothing can quite compare to the feeling of wandering the grounds of the grand mosque in Medina (site of the grave of prophet Muhammad) and seeing seemingly every nation on earth represented around you.

The Vatican evokes a similar feeling, but the difference is that devout Catholics visit through the year but the hajj happens during a specific four-day span each year, drawing millions.

It all makes me wish I had brought along my copy of the Autobiography of Malcolm X. It was his experience at hajj that fundamentally altered his understanding of Islam and shook the foundations of American social politics.

Experiencing the hajj in the midst of such diversity changed Malcolm. After seeing white Americans (who he had spent years vilifying) moved by the same beliefs, he returned to America and renounced the race-based ideology of the Nation of Islam.

Blog Mapper: Tracking the Hajj

— Ashraf Khalil in Medina