Hajj is a time for religion, not politics. That was our brief when we began covering the event this year.
The Saudi information ministry doesn’t want anything political to frame news coverage of the world’s largest pilgrimage.
Even in pre-Islamic Arabia, the Kabah was seen as a sanctuary. Warring pagan tribes from around the region would stop fighting and gather peacefully at the Kabah to worship their idols.
Now, millions of Muslims of different shapes and sizes set aside differences to worship at the House of God.
Most people have to deal with very difficult conditions. Pilgrims sleep on sidewalks or in the street. The event lends itself to random acts of kindness.
I was walking up a steep hill and an old lady was going the other way. I reached out to help her down and she grabbed my hand and pulled me up instead. She told me I looked like I needed a hand.
People here share everything. Trucks pull up and start handing out supplies. Strangers are constantly handing each other bottles of water, food and anything else they have. All property becomes community property.
It’s not a utopia. There are all the same strains of too many people in one place. There are plenty of fender benders. People argue and get upset.
But for the most part, they all keep calm and keep moving.