Scenes from the Hajj in Mecca
The Hajj is the name for the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia - the birthplace of the prophet Muhammed and the city where in the 7th century AD, he first proclaimed Islam.
The pilgrimage is considered a demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God, it is also one of the five pillars of Islam and considered a religious duty that should be undertaken at least once in the lifetime of every able-bodied Muslim. The pilgrimage occurs from the 7th to 13th day of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and final month of the Islamic calendar, although as the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle the Western date of the Hajj changes every year.
To show equality of all pilgrims in the eyes of God, during the Hajj male pilgrims are required to dress only in the ihram, a garment consisting of two sheets of white cloth plus a pair of sandals. Women are simply required to maintain their hijab or normal modest dress. Men must not cover the head and women must not cover their face and hands. While taking part in the Hajj, a pilgrim may not shave, clip their nails, wear perfume, swear or quarrel, have sexual relations, marry, perform any dishonest acts or carry weapons.