Get a load of this:
Mecca has been home to a pilgrimage in one way or another since before Mohammed’s birth – as far back as the second millennium BC. Pilgrims face myriad obstacles and small triumphs as they complete the rites, which swallow you in ancient stories that link Islam and the ancient struggle for survival in this desiccated country: Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son; Hagar’s desperate search for water; Abraham’s confrontation with the Devil. As it is now performed, hajj dates from Mohammed’s farewell pilgrimage to Mecca, three months before his death in 632AD in Medina.
I neared our gated compound and ran into Wessam, our tour group’s guide. An Australian of Lebanese descent, the 25-year-old had come to the kingdom to become an imam. Like all effective preachers I’ve heard, Wessam had a plaintive tone to his voice. In his serious way, he told me that he hadn’t seen Abel in quite a while. He then scuttled off to plan our night in Muzdalifah, where we would sleep under the stars.
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