photograph © Ali Kazuyoshi Nomachi/PPS
Day One The Haram mosque is the only mosque in the world built in the round. Its surrounding prayer halls all face the Ka'bah, and the whole building is organized around it. Thus when praying, Muslims aren't in lines but in a circular pattern facing the Ka'bah.
Each pilgrim arriving here sets out at the northeast corner (where the Black Stone is located) of the building and, in keeping with an ancient tradition, walks briskly seven times around the Ka'bah while reciting Qu'ranic verses, the Talbiya and personal prayers. Pilgrims strive to touch the Black Stone, which is said to have come from heaven. This is a form of walking prayer, valid only in Mecca, called the Turning. The Turning opens a person's heart, unifies the turners, and induces a compassionate point of view. This symbolic circling of God's House is a reminder to keep an awareness of the Sustainer at the center of your life.
Because even people weakened by age want to make their seven circuits, the outermost rim of this human circle is sometimes marked by sets of bearers hoisting a single pilgrim on a litter and carrying him or her around the shrine. Elders are also pushed by wheelchair on upper levels of the Haram mosque around the Ka'bah. The radiant faces of these elders form one of the early, indelible images a pilgrim carries home.
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