This weekend marks the time of the Hajj
, a core pillar of Islam in which great tides of humanity
venture to the ancient city of Mecca to honor God.
Predating Mohammed's birth by centuries, the pilgrimage comprises several days of rites
, from congregation like snow on Mount Arafat
and the ritual stoning of Shaitan
to the circling of the sacred Kaaba
cubical monolith Muslims pray toward daily
) and kissing the Black Stone
(colored by the absorption of myriad sins, and believed by some to be a fallen meteorite
While the city has modernized
to handle this largest of annual gatherings -- building highway-scale ramps, gaudy skyscrapers for the ultra-rich
, and tent cities the size of Seattle
-- it remains mysterious, as unbelievers are forbidden from entering its borders
Richard Francis Burton became famous for touring the city in disguise
to write a rare travelogue
, but contemporary viewers have a more immediate guide: Vice Magazine
journalist Suroosh Alvi, who smuggled a minicam into the city to record The Mecca Diaries [alt]
, a 14-minute documentary of his own Hajj journey.
Browse the manual
to see what goes into a Hajj trip, or watch the YouTube livestream
to see the Grand Mosque crowds in real time.
Some paintings by Abraham Brewster. (not this
one) 1 2
Current work on this
Inspired by this article
, I thought Christmas would be the perfect (huh?)
day to introduce the late poet
, spiritual leader, thinker, and civil rights activist
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Buoying Vessels Over Shoals.
In 1849, Abraham Lincoln was awarded Patent No. 6469 (drawing
and large TIFF files of pages 1
, and 3
of the actual patent) for a device for raising stuck riverboats off sand bars. The model
he submitted with the patent application
is at the National Museum of American History; who made the model is a bit of a mystery
. Lincoln is the only United States President
to hold a patent. (Other Lincoln-related patents, including the patent for Lincoln Logs.)
[via History Now's timeline of 19th-century inventions.]
"A Christian man is weak compared to a Muslim man."
Violence and war between Christians, Muslims, and Jews is a long-standing fact of life. Even St. Francis joining the Fifth Crusade as a peacemaker, would not change the course of history. "He was repulsed by the sacrilegious brutality of the Crusaders."
Stories of personal persecution
abound. However, there are also some small glimmers
that don't get much notice. Although such efforts are just specks in a sandstorm, maybe they are a start.
"I asked who was playing. A Moroccan group, said the cabbie. He told me its name. Did I want to know what it was singing? Certainly. It was a plea to Israel from the Arab people. The chorus was, 'We have the same father. Why do you treat us this way?' Who might the father be? I asked. 'Ibrahim
,' he said. 'The song is called Ismail and Isaac,' after his sons."