Pilgrim's Progress: The Hajj Revealed in a New Exhibition

Hassan Ammar / AP

Tens of thousands of Muslim pilgrims moving around the Kaaba, the black cube seen at center, inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Oct. 31, 2011

In 2011, nearly 3 million Muslims made the pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca. Worshippers from almost every land traveled to this holy city in the Saudi Arabian desert: 222,600 from Indonesia alone; 99,000 from Nigeria; 13,800 from China. Yet to non-Muslims, Mecca is a mystery. One of the first to glimpse its wonders was the British explorer Richard Burton, who ventured there in 1853, disguised as an Afghan doctor. In his best-selling account, he recalled: "A blunder, a hasty action, a misjudged word, a prayer or bow, not strictly the right shibboleth, and my bones would have whitened the desert...

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