|If you’re not working, you’re praying, and if you’re not praying, you’re on the road [AFP]|
Day three, and its probably been the most difficult so far.
We are up at dawn again – leaving Mecca for the plains of Mina. Here we camp for three days, going to Arafat and coming back in the middle.
Aside from the spiritual high felt by the team, we’re also pretty happy with our first day of live coverage.
But the strain of travelling, working and Hajj itself is beginning to take its toll on us. If we’re not filming, we’re worshiping and if we’re not worshiping we’re on the road.
As we approach our base in Mina, we drive by hundreds of thousands of white tents. The sheer quantity of things here, be it people, coaches or tents, and the way in which they appear in unison still amazes me.
Map – Tracking Hajj
We have a live news segment as soon as we arrive so there’s no time to rest, and to add to the stress, the guest we hoped to have on the show doesn’t make it.
But our skin is saved when we meet an African-American couple who agree to fill in.
It transpires that they are also friends of someone we had been chasing with no success for three days: a convert who Al Jazeera has been following on his journey to Mecca from Washington.
Coincidence? Or a blessing in disguise? Either way we were grateful.
Although the pilgrims’ tents at Mina are split into regions, depending on which country they started their journey, it is here that people mostly interact with their brothers and sisters in faith from across the world.
The camera man and I couldn’t help but find the irony when noticing those from Pakistan and India were side by side.
Perhaps the most interesting person I have met so far has been another African-American named Omar Reagan.
Omar is a Hollywood actor, who acted as a double for Chris Tucker in the blockbuster movie Rush Hour Two. Speaking to us he explained what Hajj meant to him.
As an actor he said, you are taught to put on a front, to not be yourself. But here on Hajj, you strip yourself of anything worldly or materialistic – even your cloths.
It is here that you realise that in the end, you will face your Lord for who you are on the inside, and not how you appear on the outside.
It got me thinking: If society’s scales of success and classing systems were replaced with a society where we all wore the same cloths, ate the same food and slept in the same circumstances, what and how would one person be differentiated from another? And how and who would you aspire to be like?
The Quran teaches Muslims that the most pious and sincere amongst humanity is the closest to God.
I guess when all you’re wearing is two white pieces of cloth and you’re sleeping on the ground along with three million other people, only God will be able to differentiate between you and the person you’re sharing your food with.