A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Day of Tarwiyya

And proclaim to mankind the Hajj (pilgrimage). They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant (wide) mountain highway (to perform Hajj).

The Hajj is underway. Yesterday the pilgrims made their first circuits of the Ka‘ba and ran between the hills of Safa and Marwa, reenacting Hagar's search for water for her child Isma‘il, which she found in the well of Zamzam. UPDATE: Heavy rains hit Mecca yesterday.

Today is the eighth of the Muslim month of Dhu'l-Hijja, the month of the Hajj, known as the "Day of Tarwiyya," the day of quenching thirst, since traditionally pilgrims gathered water to see them through the Day of ‘Arafat, the 9th of Dhu'l-Hijja and the high point of the pilgrimage. Today, though, the Hajj pilgrims will gather at Mina, a site near Mecca, where the Saudi authorities have deployed 100,000 security personnel to deal with an expected three million pilgrims. The Saudis build a huge tent city at Mina each year, which can be seen on GoogleEarth.

One of the goals of this blog, as of MEI and the Middle East Journal from the beginning, has been to explain the region to the West, though I suspect most of my readers are already familiar with the Hajj and many may have made it. For the basic rituals of the Hajj and the traditions behind them, I defer to Wikipedia and the many knowledgeable Muslim sites far better informed than a non-Muslim like myself (who cannot visit the holy sites) can hope to be. For English-only readers Arab News and Saudi Gazette are already providing a lot of coverage (ranging from price gouging on the price of sheep for the sacrifice to poor quality of roadside public toilets available to pilgrims and other travelers. (Also: there's live posting going on at Talk Islam.) Also, since the Day of ‘Arafat coincides with the US Thanksgiving, I probably won't be posting tomorrow. The day after the Day of ‘Arafat is the first day of the ‘Id al-‘Adha, when the pilgrims carry out animal sacrifices and the Muslim world as a whole joins them in celebration.

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