British Museum blog

Altaf’s Hajj: departing and arriving

Altaf Abbas

Sunday 30 October
Up very early this morning at 4am to start the journey of a lifetime. I have got butterflies in my stomach, the whole family are at the front door to see us off – it was an emotional send off. The excitement is rising while we wait at the departure gate at Heathrow with 220 other potential hajjies who are sharing a common goal of doing Hajj. We landed in Medina on Sunday evening and as the plane touched down it felt real that we had landed in the holy city of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The whole disembarkment went very smoothly and swiftly and within a few hours we were in our hotel room.

Wednesday 2 November

We have spent the last few days in Medina which is a lovely calm place and the locals are very welcoming. This morning I made ablution and put on the ihram and boarded the bus on the long but emotional journey to Mecca where my eyes are longing to see the Kabba (the direction I pray in five times a day in London) and to see it real life is going to be overwhelming. My heart is thumping and my hands are shaking I can’t wait but have to ‘shabara’ (the Arabic word for patience) which the locals use continuously, as well as with ‘inshallah’.

Altaf and Rashida Abbas are going on Hajj this year. They will be blogging about their experience over the next two weeks. Find out more about the exhibition Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam

Filed under: Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam

One Response - Comments are closed.

  1. Amran Saniago says:

    I did read your story to the end. My tears droped when you said that you landed in the Holy City of Prohet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). No reward for accepted Hajj but Paradise, hopefully you two in it. I went there with family members in 2008


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You can now discover thousands of British Museum objects in partnership with @googleartproject at We’ve asked staff members to highlight their favourites and explain what makes them special. Chris Spring, Curator of Africa Collections, describes why he finds the ‘Throne of weapons’ so powerful. ‘This war memorial celebrates the ordinary people of Mozambique, many of them unarmed, who stood up to a culture of violence. It represents both a human tragedy and a human triumph. The Throne's essential humanity is suggested right away by its anthropomorphic qualities - it has arms, legs, a back and most importantly a face - actually two faces. My first reaction was that these faces are crying in pain, though they could also be seen as smiling faces finally freed from conflict. These anthropomorphic qualities also link it immediately to the arts of Africa, in which non-figurative objects such as chairs, stools, weapons, pots etc are seen as - and described as - human beings. The Throne has toured the world, taking its message of peace to schools, churches, shopping centres and even prisons – and of course, to museums and galleries.’ #MuseumOfTheWorld We’re celebrating our partnership with @googleartproject, and have asked curators to tell us about their favourite objects. Hugo Chapman, Keeper of Prints and Drawings, explains why he chose this chalk drawing by Michelangelo. ‘One of the things I love about drawings is the way they sometimes allow a glimpse into the private, behind the scenes world of an artist, one unseen in finished works in paint or stone. An example of that is a red chalk drawing by Michelangelo of grotesque heads in red chalk that reveal that the Florentine Renaissance artist had a lively, if caustic, sense of humour. The three heads were probably drawn to amuse but at the same instruct his pupils, as the three studies show how slight changes can radically alter the reading of an image with the character and mood of each figure (paranoid anxiety; vacuous joy; and depressive gloom) signalled by the position and erectness of their donkey-like ears.  I wish my ears were as expressive.’ Discover many more incredible works of art in the Google Cultural Institute at

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