For many pilgrims, performing the Hajj is not only inspiring but also ultimately a life-changing experience [AFP]

It is day six. I've woken up feeling very strange. I'm not sure whether its the sheer exhaustion finally taking its toll, or whether the fact that this being the last day of Hajj is damping my mood.

Today we are leaving Mina to return to Mecca, where we will do our final circuits of the Kaaba - concluding our pilgrimage. I've been on a high all week, always looking forward to the day ahead whilst constantly savouring the moment.

Just as I never thought I would actually go on Hajj so soon in my life, I guess I never really anticipated this amazing experience ending so soon.

Never before have I felt so many different emotions so strongly. I try and channel them all - some make sense to me, other things that I feel are strange... they are new to me.

A few years ago I was given the autobiography of Malcolm X (El-Hajj Malik El-shabazz) as a present.

Aside from being one of the best books I have ever read, the African-American leader's life story had a profound impact on me.

It's very rare that you find such a proud and dignified leader yet one who is also humble and modest.

Thinking back at the past week and recalling some of the many experiences I have had here, I couldn't help but refer back to El-shabazz's letter that he wrote from Mecca.

He began his correspondence by saying: "Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practised by people of all colours and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other prophets of the Holy Scriptures.

"For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colours."

In depth

Map - Tracking Hajj

Hajj Diary
Day 1: Arriving in Mecca
Day 2: Secure supplication
Day 3: A hard day's work
Day 4: Destination Arafat
Day 5: Eid Reflections

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As I come to the end of my Hajj, and looking back at the past week, I can say that what was said by Malcolm in 1964 is just as true, if not more so, in 2008.

As strange or unbelievable as this may sound to those who know me, I have indeed been utterly speechless throughout the course of my journey.

I have never felt so calm and content than when I first stepped foot in Mecca - despite the monstrous crowds, the chock-a-bloc traffic and the scorching heat.

As a journalist I am used to constantly seeing images of death, destruction and poverty. It has possibly made me subconsciously negative in my outlook of the world, or at least normalised my reaction to such images.

My pilgrimage, however, really has made me view things in a totally different light. A much more positive one. Whilst I am not naive enough to think that my positive experience will automatically mean that the wrongs in the world will disappear, what I have seen in the past few days has given me a renewed hope that the current status quo does not necessarily have to be the norm.

I have seen and met so many people from so many different countries on this trip of which all believe in the basic principles of humanity, the fundamental tenant of equality and the overwhelming power of unity.

This has lead me to be convinced that if each one of them returns to their homes and tells their story to just one person, the number of people believing in the idea of a society based on equality, understanding, respect and unity will multiply so much that it will have a positive impact in one way or another the world over.

As physically tiring and mentally straining as this trip has been, it has been equally inspiring and life changing.

As one of the three million plus people who were lucky enough to make the Hajj this year, all I can say is, never have I been so highly honoured. Never have I been made to feel more humble and unworthy.

Source: Al Jazeera