A journey to Mecca

The pilgrimage to Mecca, or the “Hajj“, is a once-in-a-lifetime journey required by all followers of Islam. Each year, millions of pilgrims make the journey to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to pay respects to their religion, resulting in a tidal wave of visitors, traffic and stress on the local economy.

Vimeo user KDMart captures the journey spectacularly in the above video, from the masses of crowds migrating towards Mecca to the circular movement around the Masjid_al-Haram. In real life, the mass of bodies in the high temperature desert can often be a noisy and crowded affair, but in time lapse, the pilgrimage takes on a macroscopic beautiful movement of bodies and nature, a beautiful display of religion in motion. KDMart does a great job in telling the story.

Ramadan begins today: what travelers can expect

ramadanToday begins the Islamic holiday of Ramadan, a month long period of prayer and reflection, fasting and sacrifice, as well as feasting and acts of charity and kindness.

Travelers should exercise extra patience and flexibility this month where Ramadan is celebrated, but enjoy the special atmosphere and festivities.

If traveling in a Muslim country during August, expect closures, a slower pace, and shorter tempers during the day, but lively iftar meals and celebrations at night.

Here in the largely secular city of Istanbul, foreigners and tourists won’t encounter many problems, most restaurants and attractions will be open and travelers aren’t expected to observe the fast, though it’s polite to refrain from eating or drinking in public (read about last year’s Ramadan in Istanbul here and in Cairo).

In the US, Whole Foods has become the first nationwide chain to offer promotions and special content for Ramadan. The grocery store’s blog will share recipes and sponsor giveaways all month for the nearly 2 million American Muslims.

The TSA has just posted on their blog about what to expect in airports during Ramadan, though most of their tips are general for any time of year (you may encounter Muslims performing ablutions in airport bathrooms or hear prayers whispered) or information about what not to expect (i.e. eating or smoking).


Ramadan will end on August 29 this year, followed by a week of celebration when many Muslims travel to visit family or pilgrimage to Mecca.

Read more Gadling travel tips for Ramadan here. Traveling in the Muslim world this month? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

[Photo courtesy balavenise, Wikimedia Commons]

Adventure travel meets faith: cycling to Mecca for the Hajj

adventure travel mecca hajj
Two Muslims from South Africa mixed adventure travel and spirituality this year by cycling to Mecca for the Hajj. Natheem Cairncross, 28 and Imtiyaz Haron, 25, cycled through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Turkey, Syria and Jordan. Visa problems with Sudan and Ethiopia meant they had to take a plane from Kenya to Turkey, but that doesn’t lessen their achievement.

In an interview with the BBC, Cairncross said the 6,800-mile journey was a life-changing experience. Both had to sell possessions to raise money for the trip. Cairncross even sold his car. Yes, he had a car and he decided to go by bike.

The Hajj is the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim should do at least once in their lifetime if they are able. Currently the Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai is exhibiting photos and recordings made by Dutch explorer Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje in 1885. Check out the link for some amazing early images and eerie recordings made on wax cylinders that had only recently been developed by Thomas Edison.

[Image courtesy Ali Mansuri via Wikimedia Commons]

Photo of the Day (11.16.10)

This Sunday marked the beginning of the Hajj, the world’s largest annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. As the fifth pillar of Islam, the pilgrimage is a religious duty that must be carried out by every able-bodied Muslim that can do so. Saudi officials have reported that a record-breaking 3.4 million people are expected to come from all corners of the globe to perform the Hajj this year.

This astounding photo, titled “Headed to Mecca” was taken by Flickr user Theodore Kaye as a mother prepares to leave Osh, southern Kyrgyzstan for Mecca. I love that Theodore was able to be present for and capture the intimacy of this moment and took advantage of the lighting to make the image even more beautiful. The result of being in the right place at the right time, and knowing how to capture a great photograph.

If you want to see more of the Hajj, Boston.com put up an amazing series of images of this year’s processions. Also worth checking out is VBS.tv’s short documentary of an inside look at the pilgrimage. What’s your personal Mecca? Share it with us by adding photos to our Flickr group and it could be our next Photo of the Day.

The Afro-Punk Festival: not your mama’s punk show

Each week, Gadling is taking a look at our favorite festivals around the world. From music festivals to cultural showcases to the just plain bizarre, we hope to inspire you to do some festival exploring of your own. Come back each Wednesday for our picks or find them all HERE.

You think you know what punk is. But you haven’t seen anything until you’ve joined the thousands of head-bangers who make the pilgrimage once a year in June to Brooklyn’s Afro-Punk Festival.

This two-day celebration of music, skating, and film has become a Mecca for the burgeoning movement of Afro-Punk, a collection of African-American bands, fans, and misfits who are embracing hardcore rock culture and making it their own. Launched in the summer of 2005, the festival was the brainchild of record executive Matthew Morgan and filmmaker James Spooner, who wanted to give voice to the growing popularity of indie and punk rock in traditionally urban communities. It has ever since been a focal point of musical and cultural cross-pollination, fueled by an audience as diverse as the music itself.

Each day of the festival features bands ranging from eclectic rockers like Houston-based American Fangs to genre-bending artists like crooner Janelle Monae, that by turns, awe and electrify the crowd. Afro-Punk is the wild, weird alternate universe where anything is possible (I personally will never forget seeing bass guitarist Ahmed of Brooklyn’s Game Rebellion strut onstage sporting a fan of giant peacock feathers). Want to learn more about the Afro-Punk Festival? Keep reading below…

For first-timers, the Afro-Punk mashup of grunge guitar and streetwise swagger can be overwhelming. But have no fear: punk is a contact sport, and no one can stand still for long. Crowd surfing is encouraged, from the tiniest faux-hawked kindergartener to the heaviest thrasher, so dive away! And if you yearn for the days of good ole-fashioned moshing, you’ll have no trouble finding a scrum for a little full-body ping-pong.

Other thrill-seekers can get their kicks on the festival’s custom-built skate park. The dizzying array of jumps, ramps and rails is also the battleground for the annual URBANX skate and BMX competitions, where pro-skaters and bikers defy gravity and common sense for a coveted $5,000 prize.

Listen for the distinctive clink and hiss of spray cans and you’ll also find a one-of-a-kind outdoor art exhibit. At Afro-Punk, graffiti is king, and true to form, the artists work at lightning speed, to the delight of onlookers, tagging a rich tableaux of original pieces along a 30-foot wall of wooden panels.

On Sunday, the festival closes with a block party featuring live DJ’s, fashion, and food. But before you go, take a moment to enjoy the greatest spectacle on display: the crowd itself. Revel in being someplace where piercings outnumber iPhones two-to-one, and ‘business casual’ means keeping your shirt on. There are few places on Earth where dreadlocks and leather chokers so seamlessly co-exist. Afro-Punk is the center of a movement that defies definition. In the end, what could be more punk than that?

The 2010 Afro-Punk Festival hits New York June 26th and 27th, and will this year open in two new cities: Chicago and Atlanta. Check out afropunk.com for dates and updated details.