British Museum blog

Reflections on Hajj

In November 2011, Altaf and Rashida went on Hajj.
Here, Altaf reflects on the experience.

The end of Hajj
After our third night at Mina, we travelled by coach back to Mecca where the adventure continued. The coach driver took a wrong turning and headed in the wrong direction for 20 minutes. He then did a three point turn on the motorway and then a few miles later ran out of diesel! So a short journey of 40 minutes turned into a three hour saga! Even though everyone was extremely tired, the group stayed in good spirits as this was the first and only real hiccup in the whole trip.

Once we finally arrived in Mecca we checked into a 5 star hotel for a well-deserved rest. The hotel felt so luxurious and clean after having roughed it for a week. The hotel was less than a five minute walk to the Ka’ba so we made frequent trips for prayer and tawaf. Tawaf was very difficult as the Ka’ba was packed full of worshipers. We did the circumambulation on the top floor which increased the distance of each circuit to almost double.

One evening I went to do a tawaaf and half way through I felt peckish so I went and got a cheese burger from Burger King, sat over looking the holy mosque containing the Ka’ba. It was 2am, the temperature was 27 degrees centigrade…it was surreal experience, two different worlds with me in the middle.

After Hajj

After Hajj was over, we went to Jeddah to spend some time with my older brother who lives there with his wife and son. We were eager to see them as it had been a long while and we had never met the baby.

What a contrast! One day being in the holiest Islamic site in the world, the next in an ultra-modern busy city with the latest technology and all the designer shops you can imagine. However the remembrance of Allah is never far away – life revolves around the prayer times. When we were in one of the traditional open souks we heard the call to prayer – the shops shut their doors and the market stalls just covered their goods with a sheet and went off for prayer. Ten minutes later it’s all back to normal.

Back in London

Having completed one of the pillars of Islam, I feel the need to protect the remaining four even more than I had before I went on Hajj. The experience has changed lots of things. I feel a lot more connected to the creator and have a stronger visual connection between the text of the Quran and the knowledge that I have completed an ancient rite.

I was really missing Saudi so I logged on to the Ka’ba web site and the area around the Ka’ba was virtually empty, just a few hundred people doing tawaf. It looked very different to what I had experienced with millions of people.

Doing the Hajj has reinforced my strength in my faith and helps me remember Allah more regularly.

Altaf and Rashida Abbas went on Hajj this year and blogged about the experience for the British Museum. Find out more about the exhibition Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam

Filed under: Exhibitions, Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam

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Our #Celts exhibition opens today! It brings together the incredible Iron Age, Roman and early medieval collections of the British Museum and @nationalmuseumsscotland.
Roman control of southern Britain broke down around AD 410. New leaders established Anglo-Saxon kingdoms in England, and Roman towns and cities were largely abandoned. Neighbouring communities in Scotland, Ireland and Wales continued to develop their own unique identities. Monasteries in these areas stood out as European centres of art, learning and literacy, perpetuating and reinventing local traditions. Communities here spoke languages that we now call Celtic, and practiced a distinctive form of Christianity.
Striking stone crosses, such as this one found in Monifieth, Scotland, combined ancient Celtic curves with Anglo-Saxon knotwork and interlace designs to express these distinctive Celtic identities in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. This sculpture may have been a personal memorial or grave-slab.
Slab of grey sandstone with a cross on one side. From Monifieth, Angus, Scotland, c. AD 800–900. National Museums Scotland.
Find out more about #Celtic art and history and book tickets at Our #Celts exhibition opens today! It brings together stunning objects from the British and Irish Isles as well spectacular loans from across Europe.
This magnificent cauldron is one of the most important and intriguing finds from ancient Europe. It reveals connections between communities thousands of miles apart. Although it depicts objects used in central and western Europe,
it was found in a bog near Gundestrup in Denmark, beyond the northern edge of the Celtic regions. The style of the designs suggests that it was made further east, in Bulgaria or Romania. The strange animals and cross-legged pose of
the antlered figure hint at even wider influences, from as far afield as Asia. The scenes on the panels give a glimpse into a world of ancient myths, and the stories of gods and heroes whose names are now lost.
The Gundestrup cauldron was probably reserved for important rituals. It is likely that most people would have viewed it from a distance, seeing only the forbidding faces of gods and goddesses on the outer panels. The fantastical scenes on the inside would have been revealed to those allowed to experience the cauldron close up.
Gundestrup cauldron. Iron Age, c. 100 BC–AD 1. Found in Gundestrup, northern Jutland, Denmark. @nationalmuseet, #Denmark.
Find out more about #Celtic art and history and book tickets at Our major new #Celts exhibition is now open! Come on a 2,500-year journey tracing what it means to be Celtic...
The peoples first referred to as Celts lived across much of Europe north of the Alps, in villages or fortified hilltop settlements. Although not a single distinct group, they were interconnected, sharing cultural ideas across the continent. The objects they made for feasting, religious ceremonies, adornment and warfare were both stunning works of art and powerful ways to convey shared values and beliefs. Their unique abstract style set them apart from the classical world, but their technological accomplishments stand on par with the finest achievements of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
2,000 years ago valuable objects like this were cast into rivers. This magnificent shield was found in the River Thames at Battersea Bridge. It was not made for serious warfare as it is too short to provide sensible protection. Instead, it was probably made for flamboyant display. The highly polished bronze and glinting red glass would have made for a great spectacle.
The Battersea shield. Iron Age, c. 350–50 BC. Found in the River Thames, London, England.
Find out more about #Celtic art and history and book tickets at This 7th-century coin may be the earliest known depiction of a Muslim, the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik. The Umayyad dynasty were the first Muslim rulers to govern Egypt. This coin shows Abd al-Malik holding a sword and surrounded by the shahada, meaning ‘the testimony’ – a statement of faith in the Oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God’s Prophet.
Discover how Egypt’s religious and political landscape was transformed over 12 centuries in our #EgyptExhibition, opening 29 October.
#Islam #Muslim #coin #Islamic Christians adopted the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible as their Old Testament and understood many of its stories in the context of the death and resurrection of Jesus. This ivory box, known as a pyxis, shows Daniel, who was thrown into a lions’ den by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar but saved by his faith. On the other side, an angel rushes forward behind a ram, referring to the story where a ram is substituted for Abraham’s son at the last minute as a sacrifice to God.
Discover how Egypt’s religious and political landscape was transformed over 12 centuries in our #EgyptExhibition. In 4th-century Egypt many people of different faiths wore amulets, which were believed to provide protection. The menorah – a seven-branched lampstand – is one of the few ways of identifying Jewish material in Egypt. In time, it became the most common symbol of Jewish identity. Judaism never became a state religion in Egypt, but it had a thriving Jewish population from the Roman through to the Islamic periods. 
Find out more about Jews in Egypt in our forthcoming #EgyptExhibition

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