The British Museum in London opens its doors on Thursday to the first major exhibition in the world on Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to the heart of Islam.
Using priceless artifacts, video footage, personal audio recordings and photographs, the show explores the history, journeys and experiences of pilgrims who travel from around the world to reach the holy city of Mecca.
Among the artifacts on display is a “Mahmal”, one of the ceremonial curtained transports in which the Sultans were carried from Cairo to Mecca in what is now Saudi Arabia, and a Quran from the eighth century.
Also on show is “Milestone”, one of the stone slabs once used by pilgrims in Iraq to mark their route to Mecca, so they could find their way home.
“Magnetism”, a minimalist piece of art by Saudi artist Ahmed Mater of the Kaaba, the sacred site around which the pilgrims pray, adds a modern touch.
The Hajj exhibition is the third by the British Museum in a series of sacred spiritual journeys that included “Treasures of Heaven” and “Book of the Dead”, and is intended to improve understanding of the pilgrimage and Islam itself.
“We had to contact museums from all over the world to request if we could borrow some of their artefacts, and if there were items that related to the routes of Hajj,” said curator Venetia Porter.
Many of the artefacts were donated by Nasser Khalili, one of the biggest collectors of Islamic art in the world.
“This exhibition is a journey that sends out a religious, spiritual, ritual and cultural message that proves how harmonious Islam is,” Khalili told AFP.
Muslims are obligated to try to make the Hajj to Mecca at least once in their lives, during the last month of the Islamic year known as Dhu'l Hijja.
“Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam” opens at the British Museum on January 26, and runs until April 15.