The Hajj: Journey of a Lifetime

A pilgrimage to Mecca through the lens of Kenyan photojournalist Mohamed 'Mo' Amin.

Mohamed Amin at the Sacred Mosque (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

The photographic record of the pilgrimage

Mohamed Amin, a Muslim from Kenya and Africa’s best-known photographer, was given every facility by the Saudi Arabian government to photograph all aspects of the Hajj. He was the very first photographer to have been allowed and given access to document the pilgrimage.

The Sacred Mosque (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

The world’s greatest religious experience

Mohamed Amin's documentation of the Hajj brilliantly captures the spirit and devotion of one of the world’s great religious experiences.

Pilgrims journey back home (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

Documenting the pilgrimage

During the 1970s, over three years, Mo travelled on camel, helicopter, car and on foot following the pilgrimage. He photographed the devout as they made their way in their millions to the holy places of Islam -- to Medina, Arafat and the holy city of Mecca itself.

Muslim Pilgrims (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

The spirit of the people

Mohamed Amin portrayed these crowning moments in the lives of men and women, rich and poor, from places as far apart as Malaysia and Mali, Nigeria and Japan, Indonesia and Iraq.

Qiblah (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

The first to document the pilgrimage

Mohamed Amin was among the first people permitted to photograph sections of the Sacred Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

Pilgrims during thanksgiving prayers (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

‘And proclaim unto mankind the Pilgrimage. They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine’. 
Koran XXII – 27.

Ancient city of Mecca (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

The holy city

The barren Arabian hills stand out in the blazing desert sunlight as they look down on the holiest city in the world. Few people are lucky enough to live within its ancient boundaries. Yet, it is the centre of one of the most powerful religions on earth.

Town of Mecca (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

Worship and devotion

It is a faith which has grown stronger since the birth of Prophet Muhammad, who brought the message that there is but one God, and that He and He alone deserves man’s worship and devotion.

Pilgrims dressed in white seamless sheets (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation


Now, over a quarter of the world’s population kneel in prayer five times each day, facing the holy city of Mecca. It is their spiritual home, where Abraham built the first House of God on earth and where the Prophet Muhammad was born. Here the Koran was first revealed.

A pilgrim reads the Quran (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

The beginning of the pilgrimage

For Muslims, the Pilgrimage begins years before the actual journey. During childhood, they are taught the holiness of God’s word and learn to answer the traditional call to prayer. Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar – God is most great.

Pilgrim raises his hands (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

The call

It is a call that finds a response in all Muslim souls, a beckoning created by centuries of the unflinching faith of their ancestors. The call is a holy command; a summon to display piety and show obedience to divine laws.

Faces of the faithful (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

Once in a lifetime

But to understand the true meaning of the call to prayer, the follower has to make the pilgrimage. It is a requirement of the religion that every able-bodied Muslim must try to fulfill this journey at least once in their life.

Noon-day prayers (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

'Lo! The first sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Mecca, a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples; Wherein are plain memorials of God’s guidance; the place where Abraham stood up to pray; and whosoever entereth it is safe. And Pilgrimage to the House, is a duty unto God for mankind, for him who can find a way thither. As for him who disbelieveth, let him know that lo! God is Independent of all creatures.' 
Koran III – 96, 97.

From Mina to Arafat (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

An incredible adventure

Since the Prophet’s Farewell Pilgrimage, millions have obeyed the command to make the journey which, until recently, was often an odyssey involving incredible adventures.

Pilgrims (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

Taking risks

Pilgrim caravans from Egypt, crossing the Sinai Desert took almost two months, endangering the travellers' health and risking attack from Bedouins. There are also stories of pilgrims who crossed every kind of terrain, from desert to jungle, often taking years to arrive.

Pilgrimage has ended (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

A long journey

There is a story of one man, single when he left his far-off homeland, who arrived in Mecca with a wife and several children. Another man started the journey as a child and was in his seventies when he arrived.

Muslims perform prayers (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

A route to paradise

The poor made the journey in stages, stopping to work every so often to pay their way. Some were enslaved and many died, though not unhappily in some cases as death while on the Pilgrimage guarantees entry into Paradise.

Ihram-clad devotees (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

A shared goal

Today's pilgrims do not face such fortitude. The Saudi Arabian Government has invested millions of Saudi riyals in modern transport, shelter and hygiene to make the Pilgrimage as physically comfortable as is required in God’s eyes. Consequently, more than two million pilgrims of the 1.8 billion Muslims across the world are able to make the pilgrimage every year. Pilgrims still come from all backgrounds, from the wealthiest to the poorest, the healthiest to those suffering from illness, the old and the young. Yet on the road to Mecca, they are all equal, joined in a common bond of devout servitude to God.

Pilgrims (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation


For most pilgrims, Jeddah is but the first stage of the journey, a resting place from which to set out for Mecca.

Umbrellas for shade (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

The millions in Jeddah merge into the corridors of pious sound which forms the road from Jeddah to Mecca, making each of the forty-five miles an affirmation of man’s relationship with God.

Bow down for prayers (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

The sight of this mass movement is beyond any description. It is an act of devotion that has to be undertaken. You have to see it to believe it.

The face of El Hajji (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

And always, through the days and nights of this most solemn event, the faithful offer up the Talbiyah, as they have done from time immemorial:

‘Here am I, O God, at Thy Command, Here I am! Thou art without associates,
Thine are praise and grace and dominion
Thou art without associates
Here I am!’

Twin minarets of the Great Mosque (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

It was here, when the building was finished, that Abraham and Ismael prayed thus: “Our Lord, Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou,
art the Hearer, the Knower. Our Lord! And make us submissive unto Thee and of our seed a nation submissive unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and relent toward us. Lo! Thou, only Thou are the Relenting, the Merciful.” 

Koran II – 127, 128.

Ka'bah (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation


At the end of this corridor of dedication is Mecca, into which the pilgrim is suddenly disgorged, to behold, with awestruck eyes, the Masjid-al-Haram, the Sacred Mosque, the first House of God.

Stoning the Devils (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

“The Prophet (PBUH) seated al-Fadl behind him on his mount, and al-Fadl said that he did not stop reciting the Talbiyah until he stoned the Jamrah.” 
Al-Bukhari: 1685 and Muslim: 1282

The voice of the Muezzin (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

'We believe in God and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ismael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinctions between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.'
Koran II - 136.

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