Hajj diary: ‘I dread the crowds, the heat and the logistics’

A Muslim whose faith had begun to shatter recounts her first pilgrimage to Mecca

Diaa Hadid, a correspondent in the Jerusalem bureau of the New York Times, completed her first pilgrimage to Mecca this week. She chronicles the experience here, beginning with an account her preparations.

My father was on the phone from Australia, giving gravelly-voiced advice on preparing for the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. “Have you paid the dentist?” he asked. “He ruined my teeth!” I shrieked. “No matter, Baba,” he said, using an Arabic endearment. “This is the hajj. You have to clear your debts, even if you don’t think they are fair.”

The hajj is a five-day pilgrimage of centuries-old rites that honour a birth story of Islam, a trek every Muslim is supposed to undertake at least once. It is a spiritual as well as physical journey, and requires preparations in both spheres.

So I had to buy new shoes suitable for long days of walking and safe to wear in surging crowds. I was supposed to seek the forgiveness of anyone I have wronged – and forgive everybody who had wronged me. And I had to clear my debts.

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There is a dentist in the West Bank city of Ramallah who badly damaged my teeth this year, costing me thousands of dollars, days of pain and lasting emotional distress. This dentist has sent me nasty notes, threatening to use his “connections” to destroy my reputation if I did not pay him his outstanding bill of about $1,000 (€890).

I protested to my father, crying a little. “God will compensate you,” he soothed. “And then when you see that man again, you can raise your head up high and know he has nothing on you.”

Angry and resentful, I paid the dentist. I also made amends with the greedy landlord who refused to return my $2,650 security deposit. Eventually, I landed here in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, only to find that my suitcase containing my clothes, photo-card reader, computer charger, and contact lenses had been lost, and I had to forgive the luggage handlers, too.

For hundreds of years, pilgrims have come Saudi Arabia to sanctify God in Islam’s holiest site, heeding the command of the Koran: “And proclaim to mankind the hajj. They will come to you on foot, on very lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant mountain highway.”

Today, they also come by bus and aircraft. They traverse between sites in air-conditioned corridors with lanes for those who are older and disabled. They eat in modern malls nearby, and some pay $2,700 a night to stay in towering hotels with views of the Haram, the sprawling mosque built around the black, cube-shaped building known as the Kaaba.

Shattered faith

Last year, more than 2,300 people were killed in a crush during the hajj. The pilgrimage has also become a petri dish for disease; many return home with a heavy cough Muslims call the "hajj flu". I grew up in a observant Egyptian-Lebanese Muslim family in Canberra, Australia, and at 15 started wearing the hijab. I prayed regularly, memorised the Koran and sought to study Sharia, Islamic law.

But my faith began to shatter in college. I was 20 when I took off my head scarf, feeling I could no longer visibly represent a religion that did not allow women to preach before men, lead them in prayer or serve as witnesses in some judicial matters.

Now, at 38, I have a tangled relationship with Islam. It is the bedrock of my values. It informs how I smile at strangers, give to charity and try to be patient with dentists and landlords. But I date, I own a (modest) bikini, and while I still fast during the holy month of Ramadan, I do not exactly adhere to Islam’s other prescriptions.

Still, I had always dreamed of doing the hajj. My oldest sister, Marwa, a farmer in rural New South Wales, and I planned to take a year off and walk to the Kaaba, as the great Sufi woman Rabia al-Adawiya did in the eighth century, from Basra, Iraq. It was one of those bucket-list items that got kicked back as life happened.

Then a few months ago, a colleague suggested that I apply for a journalist visa to cover the hajj. I posed for a fresh passport photo wearing a black head scarf, red lipstick, and a scowl. “Are you a Muslim, sister?” the man at the Saudi Embassy in Jordan asked, looking suspiciously at the photo. “Yes, sir,” I said, pointing to my rather poetic name, Diaa el-Radwa, the Light of Radwa.

Radwa is a mountain in Medina, the second-holiest city in Islam. The man stamped my passport with the visa. Suddenly, it was real.

In the weeks since, I have sometimes found myself crying as I realised I would soon lay my own eyes on the Kaaba, which is empty – a reminder that the heart of Islam is the worship of a singular, inimitable God. I am also dreading the crowds, the heat and the logistics, and especially the minder whom the Saudi Ministry of Information assigns to follow journalists everywhere. And I’m anxious about my parents’ expectations.

The importance of socks

Then there was the matter of footwear. I had been planning to wear hiking boots – sturdy, comfortable, and nobody would squash my toes. My mum quickly nixed that notion. “If you wear shoelaces,” she warned in halting English, “men will try grab you as bend over to untie them.”

Mum has undertaken the pilgrimage several times, and said nothing worked better than socks and Crocs – easy to slip on and off. Crocs I got. But socks? Because, she explained, people pee everywhere, and you want to avoid stepping in that. Instead, I bought braided leather sandals. And socks.

I have taken my sister Arwa’s advice of wearing a long robe with a zipper, instead of buttons, so nobody can rip it open. Per my mother’s instruction, I tailored it to sit above my ankles, so I won’t trip. (It’s much harder for men, who may wear only two seamless white sheets. That’s it. No underwear, nothing. I can’t imagine working like that.)

Hijab is of course required; I have added an elastic band, so if the scarf slips, I won’t reveal any strands. My brother Saif says people get really angry at women who look immodest. In the bag I will keep clutched to my chest I have a camera, notepad, iPhone, disinfectant gel, medicine for diaorrhea, and antibiotics. My brother says it’s too dangerous to let my camera or anything else dangle from my neck; it could get snagged.

“I cannot begin to describe the crowds,” he wrote on our family WhatsApp group. “You will often be stuck in human traffic moving only by the will of people around you, almost like a wave carrying you.”

Saif undertook the hajj four years ago, when he was 31. “You may get shoved out of the way by a burly Turkish woman,” my brother continued. “A man might think it is his God-given right to pee in front of you. Just be patient and know why you are there in the first place.”

He called a few days later: “Listen, I forgot to tell you something.”

“Do your business before you go anywhere,” my brother said, describing how he once had to wait two or three hours to move perhaps 50 yards to a hotel. “Toilets, toilets, be very conscious of where they are and how you can get there.” Diaorrhea is an ever-present threat. “You might need to find a quick escape route to a bathroom.”

My father chimed in: “Buy your dates in Taif,” a Saudi city near the holy sites. There, he said, “they only cost a couple of dollars a kilo. If you buy them in Mecca or Medina, it’s around $35 a kilo. Everything is more expensive there.”

And then, Arwa, who made the journey in 2004, refocused me. “The spiritual feeling overtakes” these earthly issues, “the people that rip you off, the men that are sexually assaulting people in front of you,” she wrote on WhatsApp. “It takes over all of that. It’s beautiful and unforgettable.”

MECCA, Saudi Arabia

When I arrived in Saudi Arabia for the hajj, I did so without antibiotics or the disinfectant gel my family had insisted I carry. The airline had lost my luggage and, with it, my defences against what we call “the hajj flu”. I also did not have a proper head scarf or even a prayer mat.

As the call to prayer sounded on my first day in Mecca, I stood outside the Grand Mosque in a line of women and realised that I would have no clean place to put my head during the full prostrations we make in a symbolic act of submission to God. I figured, never mind, this is the hajj, once in a lifetime. Then the woman standing next to me said, “I‘ve made space for you”. We had to pray very close together, our heads touching on her tiny mat.

Afterward, I thanked her. Her name was Samira, a professor in Algeria. She kissed me on the cheek and said that that was the way a Muslim should behave, and that I was her sister. Samira was one of dozens of fellow Muslims I encountered who shared a simple kindness or opened up about their spiritual ambitions for their hajj.

Other veteran pilgrims shared tips for practising the rites we would perform, where to find bargains during the hajj and how to beat the heat.

Pray for Peace God, if you‘re listening ...

The indispensable part of the hajj took place on Sunday, when pilgrims were to clamber on to Mount Arafat to ask for God's forgiveness and make specific requests by prayer. Muslims believe that a supplication at that place at that time will be answered.

My mum had instructed me to pray for a husband as I make my first hajj. Also: the health of her best friend and the release, from jail in Egypt, of the son of my aunt‘s maid. Along with Mum’s list, I prayed for Syria; for refugees to find homes and acceptance; that children would go to sleep with full stomachs and mothers able to love and care for them. I prayed for my friend‘s mother who has cancer, and tried to remember all the other friends, most of them secular, who had asked me to sneak in a word for them.

Peace seemed to be the most popular prayer among the pilgrims I met. Mervat, a 30-year-old cardiologist from Yemen, said she would ask to go to paradise with her parents and that her war-torn country might heal. Hassan Abbas, a doctor from Nigeria, said he hoped that his war-torn country might find peace, too. Sayida Bakri (68) asked for terrorism to be defeated and “for Egypt to stand on its feet“ after years of instability.

Abd Aziz Hj Johari – who is 18 and from Brunei, and who wore a T-shirt proclaiming, “I Love the Prophet” – shrugged when I asked what he was praying for. His mother, Siti Hayun Hj Abdul Qadi, said she would ask that her son “become a good boy in the future, a good husband, especially, a good son”.

Throwing stones: Proper technique is essential. On the third day of the hajj, pilgrims throw rocks at three stone pillars near Jamarat Bridge in a re-enactment of Ibrahim (or Abraham) stoning the devil as he tries to follow God's commandment. Jamarat is a notorious choke point for hajj crowds. It was as pilgrims were heading to the Jamarat ritual last year that hundreds, maybe thousands, of pilgrims died in a crush of people.

Security officials this year are trying to limit the numbers of pilgrims who can go to Jamarat at any given time. To avoid dangerous backups, they have instituted one-way pedestrian roads for pilgrims from the tent city of Mina where they walk to the Jamarat building. And directions flash in English and Arabic to keep people moving.

I collected 49 small rocks in an empty water bottle for the ritual, and some more experienced pilgrims showed me how to carefully but purposefully throw my stones. Tip: Nobody likes a lefty. After throwing my first batch of stones with my left hand, I was politely corrected to throw them with my right next time. I joked that any devil could duck my left-handed throw.

Cooling off

After prayers at the Grand Mosque, pilgrims flocked to the Aesra ice cream shop nearby, where there are separate lines for men and women. “After worship, there’s a treat,” said Arar Hafsi (51), an Algerian pilgrim, giggling. I met one young woman in a niqab, her face and body covered in heavy black cloth, clutching a plastic cup filled with cold swirls of mango and strawberry. She said, laughing, that maybe she had one after every prayer _ that‘s five times a day.

“Is it good?” I asked. “Well,” she said, “it‘s all there is.” I know you want to know, so: A woman wearing a niqab eats ice cream by filling the spoon, then raising her veil just a bit and sticking the spoon into her mouth. Qasim (16) a worker I interviewed at the shop, gave free cups to me and Abdul-Rahman, the Saudi minder who follows me everywhere under the government‘s rules for journalists covering the hajj. The ice cream tasted good. Also: It’s all there is.

Keeping score

Sitting next to a group of Saudi women who resembled large black crows in their billowing robes, double-face veils and gloves, I noticed that they all wore little rings that looked like miniature pedometers. When I asked how many miles one woman had walked that day, she laughed.

It turned out that the rings were electronic prayer counters. Muslims often keep track of individual prayers like “I seek God‘s forgiveness”, believing that they earn credit for a good deed, or hasana, with each supplication. Prayers uttered at the Grand Mosque are said to be worth 100,000 times those said elsewhere.

One of the women, Hanan, showed me her counter: 266, and it was only noon. Then she thrust the device into my hands and told me to “keep it, so you can always count your prayers”. I politely declined.

Keepsakes and souvenirs

I mean no disrespect when I say that Mecca is, well, a mecca for shopping. People have come here to pray, but even five times daily leaves time for the glittering gold shops that line Ajyad Street. This year‘s big sellers: lightweight rings and white, rose and yellow bracelets so finely spun that they feel like cotton candy on the wrist. Traders, as they do, lament that last year was better – instability throughout the Middle East has left fewer buyers for the higher-priced bling.

For those with lighter wallets, children hawk velvet prayer rugs decorated with images of the Kaaba for $2.60. People sell flip-flops for the inevitable pilgrim who has lost her shoes somewhere around the Grand Mosque, calling out the prices in Urdu: “Panj! Panj! Panj!“ Five! Five! Five!

The pharmacy on Ajyad Street is constantly packed, doing a roaring trade in antibiotics – hajj flu again – and anti-diaorrhea pills.

Hajj haircuts

At the end of the hajj, men are required to shave their heads, and women to cut a lock of hair. At the busy barber complex near the Grand Mosque, they’ll buzz you with a razor (disposable) or scissors for $4; a buzz cut is $2.70. Signs around the mosque warn pilgrims not to cut hair inside the complex – it turns out that some people like to DIY at Islam‘s holiest site.

Outsourcing the messier duties

Usually, the post office is where you send mail or pay your bills. In Saudi Arabia during the hajj, it’s where you pay for your animal sacrifice.

It costs 460 riyals, or about $120, to have a sheep slaughtered. The sacrifice, known as the hadi, is incumbent on all pilgrims, who must donate at least two-thirds of the meat to the poor.

Modern pilgrims usually have a slaughterhouse near Mecca do this for them, via the local post office.

How do you know your animal was sacrificed? By text message, of course.

Outside Saudi Post in Mina, the sprawling tent city where pilgrims live for part of the hajj, Marwan Nabil, 22, who is from Yemen, began to worry when he had not received his confirmation.

“The system is down, but don’t worry, it will be done in an hour,” said Faisal al-Harbi, a postal worker.

It was all so neat and tidy.

Not so in a humid, sweaty slaughterhouse on the edge of Mecca: Men in stained robes hauled flailing sheep into the building. One man dragged his prey by its leg, and another carried one of the animals on his back.

Butchers in red T-shirts hacked with curved blades at skinned sheep hanging on hooks. Cleaners in yellow T-shirts dumped sheep guts into drains under the killing floor.

Nearby, men in muddy clothes sat on a dirty red carpet, watching animals being chopped up. Outside the slaughterhouse, a Pakistani woman shook an empty plastic bag. “Meat?” she asked, hoping charitable locals would oblige.

Rolling through the hajj

For pilgrims who are not strong enough to endure the long trek of the hajj, there are men with wheelchairs for hire who will push them from site to site, ritual to ritual.

But it’s not cheap. One wheelchair pusher told me he charged older clients 200 riyals, or about $53, for a day.

I asked him how he set his price, and if he charged by weight.

Conflicting feelings

“Sister, where are your socks?” one of the women I was sitting with demanded. “Don’t you know you have to cover your feet?” We were in the sprawling Grand Mosque that surrounds the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, during the hajj, the five-day pilgrimage of rites and rituals that ended last Wednesday. I could not decipher which of the four Saudi women in identical billowing black robes and black gloves was speaking to me because their faces were covered with not one but two veils, something I had never seen before.

They made space for me. I discreetly covered my offending feet with my own long, black robe, which I bought specially for the hajj, my first. These women who looked like black ravens poured me golden Arabian coffee from their thermos and fed me crunchy yellow dates while we waited for Friday prayer to begin.

There it was again. I was at once frustrated by Islam’s nitpicky strictures on women’s dress and embraced by its warm sisterhood. Over and over again during this physical and personal journey, I was confronted by my conflicting feelings on how the faith I was raised in deals with gender, the very thing that had made me take off my hijab in college.

At its founding, 1,400 years ago, Islam was revolutionary for its time in seeing women as spiritual equals. But in its contemporary conception, the day-to-day gender roles trouble me.

My testimony in some Islamic court matters would count for half that of a male witness. Men can take four wives, women one husband each. Yet Muslim women have a right to an education, to be scholars and in some cases jurists. We have as an eternal role model the Prophet Muhammad’s first, beloved wife, Khadija, a successful trader who popped the question to a man 15 years her junior.

“Treat your women well and be kind to them,” Muhammad himself urged in his last sermon, during his final pilgrimage to Mecca. “It is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you.” So, kindness and rights, but also women as something less than men. It can feel patronising, and diminishing of our full humanity. It is why I started to lose faith after a childhood in an observant family and what I still struggle with, at 38, living a life that is secular but guided by Islamic values.

Each day in Mecca provided powerful reminders of a religion that seems to simultaneously embrace women and push them away. Another day at the Grand Mosque, I met Saraya, a middle-aged woman who is from South Africa but lives in Australia, where I grew up. She had longed to make the hajj for years but was unable because she lacked a mahram, or male guardian – usually a husband, brother or father – to accompany her; male pilgrims can come alone.

“I never thought I’d get here,” said Saraya, beaming. She got here only because the Saudi government allows some women over 45 to come with an older female companion. (I got around the mahram requirement because I came on a journalist visa, which included a different kind of guardian, a Saudi minder named Abdul-Rahman who accompanied me during all my reporting.)

Saraya, whose last name and age I never had a chance to ask, said there had been “a few incidents” that detracted from the positive experience of her pilgrimage, like when someone in her delegation was “propositioned in a taxi”, and the fact that men frequently pushed in front of her.

“But I’m a bit bohemian, so I trust the energies around me,” she added. “I just let it flow; whatever is supposed to come is a learning.” Once women overcome the obstacles to getting here, they are required to perform all the same rituals as men. The only real gender difference on the hajj is that men are supposed to wear two white sheets with nothing underneath (women have no specific dress requirement beyond modesty), and at the end, men shave their heads and women simply cut a lock of hair.

Men and women

Unlike in the segregated prayer spaces of mosques and the separate wedding celebrations of conservative Muslims, men and women mix freely during hajj rites: walking together seven times around the Kaaba; climbing together to the top of Mount Arafat, where supplications to God are believed to be answered; throwing stones together at the Jamarat, the three pillars that symbolise the devil. There was something lovely about watching that, doing that.

But segregation– and unequal treatment – come back five times daily with the call to prayer. One night at the compound where my 500-person VIP delegation was staying in Arafat, I was working when the men suddenly started kneeling in a large, air-conditioned, carpeted room. I asked where the women should pray, and various officials kept directing me back through a parking lot crammed with buses until I realised there was no space set aside; we were meant to bow alone in our rooms.

Another night, as I tried to find room between worshippers, a security guard shouted that I was taking space where men needed to walk. Among other special rules around the hajj, there is a relaxation of some of Islam’s modesty strictures: Women are not supposed to cover their faces. But I met several female pilgrims who still shrouded themselves, either with thin gauze or with a cloth draped from a visor. One step forward, two back.

Beneath the veils, though, were hardly oppressed chattel. One woman I met, Mervat, works as a cardiologist in war-torn Yemen, risking her life to save lives. Then there was Raghdah Hakeem (27) a Saudi assigned by the Ministry of Culture and Information to care for the women in our delegation, which included 100 journalists (about 10 of them women, which the veterans said was the most they had ever seen covering the hajj).

When Hakeem was ordered to sit at the back of the bus one night, she refused and stayed in her seat, a Muslim Rosa Parks. "I can sit wherever I want," she recalled telling the elderly, bearded official. She grinned as she shared the rest: "All the men around me said, 'I'm so glad you didn't go.' I stood for my opinion, and they supported me."

Despite dire warnings from my mother and sister, who had done the hajj before me, I did not experience sexual harassment in any form – no groping, no gestures, no untoward or unwelcome comments. I felt safe. But also, too often, second-class.

Women-only

When our delegation reached the rocky plain of Muzdalifa, we were ushered into a women-only compound akin to mobile homes. It was starkly different from the accommodations of the rest of the pilgrims, who traditionally sleep under the stars on pieces of cardboard and sheets, men and women in separate but close quarters.

In Muzdalifa, pilgrims are meant to gather stones to throw at the three Jamarat pillars. Instead, somebody left rocks near the entrance of our compound so we wouldn’t have to go out onto the plain. It was a thoughtful gesture for some of the women in our group, who rushed to cover themselves whenever a man approached our quarters, usually to deliver food or drinks. Once, one of my roommates, wearing a rainbow-colored robe with strawberries, only had time to hold a veil up in front of her face. She looked as if she were deleting herself from a picture.

But for me and a few other female Muslim journalists, the gesture felt like a slight. We wanted to gather our own stones, to experience the whole hajj. We strolled onto the plain, and I bent to pick up rocks and put them into an empty water bottle. As I rose, one of those veiled women handed me a bottle of drinkable yogurt to rehydrate.

What Muslims do on the hajj, and why

It is incumbent upon every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so to travel to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Islam’s holiest site, at least once in his or her lifetime. The annual pilgrimage is known as the hajj, and it is one of the five pillars of Islam, prescribed in the Koran:

And proclaim to mankind the hajj. They will come to you on foot, on very lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant mountain highway.

This year, 1437 according to the Islamic calendar, I made my first hajj. I will be joining two million Muslims from around the world – though the writer Abu Muneer Ismail Davids joked that it may feel more like 10 million people . During the hajj, we must not swear, cut our hair or nails, have sex or crush a plant.

Here’s a glossary of terms, names and places that help explain the rites and rituals Muslims will participate in during the six days of the hajj, which begins Saturday.

Prophets and Forebears

Ibrahim, tThe prophet who, following God's commandment, left his wife, Hajar, and their son Ismail in the Arabian desert. (I am using the Islamic spellings for these figures that also appear in the Judeo-Christian Bible as Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael.) It is with Ibrahim that one of the stories of the origin of Islam begins. For Muslims, like Jews, he is considered a patriarch of our faith.

Hajar was Ibrahim's second wife. After she and Ismail were left in the desert, Hajar ran seven times between two hills, Safa and Marwa, searching for water for her thirsty son. Ismail is said to have kicked his leg in the sand, causing water to trickle out. This became the spring of Zamzam, from which we drink during the hajj.

Ismail is considered the ancestor of the Arabs. He was reunited with his father after many years when Ibrahim returned to the desert. Ismail is said to have helped his father build a temple, called the Kaaba, or cube, to honour his one God. To test Ibrahim's faith, God commanded him to sacrifice Ismail. Three times the devil tried to tempt Ibrahim to abandon his mission, and each time Ibrahim hurled seven stones at the devil to ward him off. We re-enact the stone throwing during the hajj.

As the Koranic story goes, God replaced Ismail with a ram, which was slaughtered instead.

Muhammad, the prophet of Islam made the hajj with his followers and wives in AD 632. Muslim pilgrims imitate what the Prophet Muhammad did on his journey, which is also called the “farewell pilgrimage.”

Holy Sites

The Kaaba, which is aAlso known as Bait Allah, or the House of Allah, is in the Grand Mosque of Mecca. It houses el-hajar al-aswad, or black stone, which is believed to have descended from paradise whiter than the colour of milk, but was later stained by the sins of humans. At the start of the hajj, pilgrims dressed in white circle the Kaaba seven times, trying to kiss the black stone. This is one of the most iconic images of the hajj and is known as the tawaf.

Safa and Marwa, the two hills where Hajar searched for water, are now part of the Grand Mosque that includes the Kaaba. On the first day of the hajj, pilgrims honour Hajar by walking seven times between the sites of the two hills, though the journey is more comfortable than her trek: the marble-tiled walkways between Safa and Marwa are air-conditioned. Pilgrims also drink water from the spring of Zamzam from taps installed in the mosque and sleep in an enormous tent city built three miles east of Mecca in Mina, where Ibrahim was to have sacrificed Ismail.

Mount of Arafat, southeast of Mina, is where Muhammad delivered his final sermon on the first Muslim hajj, and it is the commemoration of this event on the eighth day of the Islamic month of Dhul-Hijjah – the Day of Arafat – that is the indispensable part of the hajj. All two million pilgrims are to visit Arafat on the second day of the hajj, before travelling to Muzdalifah,on the way to Mina, to pray and sleep.

Meqaat is the entire area in and around Mecca that includes the holy sites of the hajj. Muslims entering the meqaat are required to announce their intention to participate in the pilgrimage. Flights carrying Muslims to Saudi Arabia for the hajj announce when the plane is approaching the meqaat so that passengers can make their intentions known. Men chant loudly, "Here I am, oh Lord, here I am," and women repeat this phrase audibly, but in a low voice.

Rites and Rituals

Jamarat is a ritual that commemorates Ibrahim fending off temptation from the devil. On the third day of the hajj, pilgrims throw stones at three pillars near Jamarat Bridge that are meant to symbolise the devil's efforts to derail Ibrahim on his way to Mina to sacrifice Ismail. The ritual stoning is repeated daily for three days before pilgrims return to Mecca to circle the Kaaba one last time. Jamarat is a notorious choke point for hajj crowds. It was during the Jamarat ritual last year that hundreds, maybe thousands, of pilgrims died in a crush of people.

Hadi is tThe ritualistic slaughter of a sheep, cow, goat or camel to commemorate Ibrahim's sacrifice of the ram. Muslims are forbidden from slaughtering animals during the hajj until after the Day of Arafat, when it their duty to do so. Modern pilgrims usually appoint a slaughterhouse near Mecca to do this for them.

Ihram is tThe traditional dress men wear during the hajj. It consists of two sheets of white fabric. Women dress modestly, and must cover their hair and body. Once the hajj is over, men are expected to shave their heads, and women are expected to snip a piece of hair.

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