Please tell us about your experienceof this website today

Read, Watch and Listen

Items per page:102050

Longing for Sacred Homelands

Hajj is a religious duty but Muslim culture also sustains a longing for Islam’s sacred homelands which are at once absent and present in everyday life. In these paintings, a London-based fine artist personalises the formal views of Makkah and Madinah which typically grace British-Muslim front rooms. At the centre of Makkah’s Great Mosque is the Ka’ba, the House of God and the direction of daily prayers. The green dome of the Madinah Mosque marks the beloved Prophet’s burial place.

© Kamel Baksh, 2015. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY-NC-ND”

Read more about Longing for Sacred Homelands

The UK Hajj Industry

Until the 2000's Hajj-going in the UK was typically organised independently in small, informal groups. However, as part of increased regulation in response to pilgrim numbers, the Saudi authorities made it compulsory to travel with approved travel agents. There are now around 79 such agents in the UK. Of these, El-Sawy Travel, was perhaps the first to organise a formal Hajj ‘package’ during the early 1980s. The Egyptian-born owner is pictured outside his premises near Regent's Park Mosque, North-West London.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2014. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

Read more about The UK Hajj Industry

Making Preparations

In an online survey of nearly 200 British-Muslims conducted 2011-12, Islamic books were rated as the most important source of information about Hajj. This guide to performing the pilgrimage is especially novel and has proven to be a bestseller. Published in Birmingham by Al-Hidayaah (‘guidance’), an Islamic business which combines a bookstore with a travel agency, Hajj & Umrah made easy can conveniently be worn around the neck. A copy is photographed here at the Salafi Bookstore in Bradford.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2015. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

Read more about Making Preparations

Welfare, Training and Governance

Following a 1997 tent fire in Saudi Arabia which killed over 300 Hajjis, the UK's first pilgrim welfare organisation was founded in Birmingham. The Association of British Hujjaj (ABH) lobbies government to support UK citizens visiting Makkah. It also educates intending pilgrims about health and safety. At a 2014 event in Birmingham, speeches were delivered in English and Urdu by medics, Islamic scholars and civic dignitaries. Trading Standards in the city has been especially proactive in tackling ‘Hajj fraud’.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2014. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

Read more about Welfare, Training and Governance

The British Hajj Delegation

Under New Labour a British Hajj Delegation was established in 2000. Unique among Western nations, it made Foreign and Commonwealth Office support available on the ground in Makkah. However, in 2010, funding for volunteer medics ceased. This photograph shows the now privately-funded British-Muslim doctors in 2012. With government stressing the need for self-help in the Hajj travel sector, it also highlights the key contribution since the mid-2000s of a ‘second generation’ welfare organisation, the Bolton-based, Council of British Hajjis.

© Rashid Mogradia, 2012. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

Read more about The British Hajj Delegation

Ihram and Ritual Separation

At one of several miqats (boundary points) surrounding Makkah, pilgrims make ablutions, don their ihram (ritual attire), and state the intention to perform Hajj. They enter a state of consecration which includes various prohibitions. Travelling from the West today, the miqat is often reached en route to Jeddah International Airport. Here, however, British-Muslim pilgrims gather at the miqat nearest Madinah, Dhu’l Hulayfa. The women's light, cotton ihrams are optional, whereas men must wear two unstitched pieces of white cloth.

© Qaisra Khan, 2010. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

Read more about Ihram and Ritual Separation

Guests in the House God

Feelings of sacred time and space are confirmed for many when they see the House of God for the first time. The Ka’ba was built first by Prophet Adam and then rebuilt by Prophet Ibrahim. Pilgrims must circumambulate the cube-shaped building anticlockwise seven times (tawaf). This image captures the oceanic experience that British-Muslims report, a sense of oneness (tawhid) with God. However, given the sheer weight of pilgrim numbers, the ritual is physically punishing. Sacred and mundane are navigated step-by-step.

© Peter Sanders, mid-1990s. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY-NC-ND”

Read more about Guests in the House God

In the Footsteps of Hajar

Pilgrims also re-enact the inspiring story of Hajar, Ibrahim's wife and Isma’il's mother. Hurrying (sa‘i) seven times between two hillocks, they embody her search for water having settled in the desert with her son. Drinking from the well of Zamzam, pilgrims recall the miraculous spring God revealed to save the pair. Nevertheless, some British-Muslims highlight the discrepancies between the sa‘i of sacred history and its modern manifestation. The ritual is now performed on marble floors inside the ever-expanding Great Mosque.

© Qaisra Khan, 2010. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

Read more about In the Footsteps of Hajar

Community, Equality and Difference

Having performed the Makkan rites, pilgrims leave their hotels and travel several kilometres into the valley of Mina. Here they camp overnight in a vast tented city. British-Muslims describe increased opportunities for interactions, both within their own groups and with pilgrims from across the world. They relate sublime and everyday moments when social divisions are dissolved and the idea of a united Muslim ummah (community) emerges. Yet, at other times, differences of class, gender, ethnicity and denomination also remain apparent.

© Simon Martin, 2009. Creative Commons licence – “CC-BY”

Read more about Community, Equality and Difference

Seeking Forgiveness: The Day of 'Arafat

The zenith of the Hajj occurs on the plain of ‘Arafat beyond Mina. Here Adam met again with Eve after the Fall, and many pilgrims turn inwards to repent on Jabal al-Rahma (Mount of Mercy) where Muhammad gave his farewell sermon. As shown here, pilgrims stand in congregation (wuquf), fervently supplicating from noon until sunset. In their shroud-like ihrams, British-Muslims say that this also rehearses the Day of Judgement. Hajj is indeed a journey from sinfulness to purification.

© Simon Martin, 2009. Creative Commons licence – “CC-BY”

Read more about Seeking Forgiveness: The Day of 'Arafat

Being Tested: The Stoning of the Pillars

Having collected pebbles at Muzdalifa overnight, pilgrims stone three jamarat (pillars) back at Mina. This cathartic ritual commemorates Ibrahim's physical actions in rejecting Satan's attempts to test him. In the 1970s a jamarat bridge was constructed to convey pilgrims to the pillars, a site notorious for stampedes. In 2004 the pillars were replaced by huge walls. However, as this photograph shows, following 300 deaths in 2006, an entirely new bridge and multi-storey system was introduced. British-Muslims report feeling much safer.

© Simon Martin Photography, 2009. Creative Commons licence – “CC-BY”

Read more about Being Tested: The Stoning of the Pillars

From Sacrifice to Charity: Eid al-Adha

Together with the shaving/cutting of pilgrims' hair, it is the qurbani or animal sacrifice that seals Hajj. Most restrictions associated with ihram now come to an end. ‘Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice) is celebrated simultaneously in Makkah and across the Muslim world. It commemorates Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his son, Isma‘il, in obedience to God. Today charities encourage British-Muslims to donate their qurbani offering to the poor world-wide. Here, an Islamic Relief shop in Bradford, promotes its campaign.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2015. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

Read more about From Sacrifice to Charity: Eid al-Adha

Souvenirs and Shared Blessings

Travelling material objects share the baraka (blessings) of the Holy Places. Perhaps the most significant of these is water from the well of Zamzam, which stands near the Ka’ba. Airlines currently allow each pilgrim to return home with up to 10 litres often in large, mass-produced plastic bottles like the one here at a mosque in Bury. Visitors may be invited to stand facing Makkah and drink the Zamzam from special cups, while listening to stories about its curative properties.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2015. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

Read more about Souvenirs and Shared Blessings

Being a Hajji: Changing Public Significance

Returning pilgrims bear the new, honorific titles of ‘Hajji’ (men) and ‘Hajja’ (women). Traditionally expected to be more pious and enlightened, they have often been given a special respect in Muslim communities. This shop-front in East London illustrates how such values still find expression in the urban landscape. However, Hajj-going has become rather commonplace in Britain and the public significance of performing the pilgrimage is declining. Nevertheless, a pilgrim's lifestyle can still be a matter of scrutiny in close-knit communities.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2014. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

Read more about Being a Hajji: Changing Public Significance

Spiritual Efficacy and the Desire to Return

For Hajjis like Bilal, photographed here at home in Leeds wearing clothes and scent from the Holy Places, and standing in front of a picture of the Great Mosque, Hajj is profoundly spiritually uplifting and potentially life-changing. Some pilgrims do manage to take their experiences forward with them as they settle back into everyday routines. But this is not easy to sustain. Thus British-Muslims today tend to be unanimous in their desire to return to Makkah and Madinah one day.

© Seán McLoughlin, 2011. Creative Commons licence - “CC-BY”

Read more about Spiritual Efficacy and the Desire to Return

Wilhelm His and Karl Seffner - Facial reconstruction of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bericht an den Rath der Stadt Leipzig (Leipzig 1895.)

Early attempt at facial reconstruction: German Anatomist Dr. Wilhelm His took measurements of facial tissue from a small number of cadavers and using this data he worked with a sculptor, Karl Seffner, to model a bust of composer Johann Sebastian Bach onto a replica of the skull. 

Read more about Wilhelm His and Karl Seffner - Facial reconstruction of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bericht an den Rath der Stadt Leipzig (Leipzig 1895.)

3D bust of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar Ivan IV (Gerasimov, 1955)

Dr. Mikhail Gerasimov pioneered research into facial anthropology and developed the technique known as the anatomical method. His research had a significant influence on current facial depiction practice, and focused on an understanding of facial anatomy and the importance of muscle structure and position for the production of a recognisable likeness. Image used with permission of Elizaveta Veselovskaya, Moscow Institute of Sciences.

Read more about 3D bust of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar Ivan IV (Gerasimov, 1955)

Reliability assessment (Helmer, 1993)

A double blind accuracy study was carried out by Prof. Dr. Richard Helmer. Two researchers reconstructed 12 skulls following a plan based upon the skull morphology. Each reconstruction (examples A & C) was then compared to an ante-mortem photograph of the subject (examples B) using resemblance ratings from five observers. The results suggested the reconstructions were closer resemblances to each other (50% approximate) than to the subjects (42% slight). Image courtesy of Wiley-Liss Inc.

Read more about Reliability assessment (Helmer, 1993)

Tissue depth data

The variation in facial tissue depths between sexes, ages, ethnic groups and different nutritional states has been studied over the last 120 years. Facial tissue depth markers are added at the beginning of the facial depiction process and commonly include 15-34 anatomical points on the skull surface. Image provided by Face Lab, Liverpool John Moores University.

Read more about Tissue depth data

3D manual method of facial depiction from skeletal remains

The ‘manual method’ is a term applied to a depiction process involving materials such as clay or wax applied by a sculptor onto a skull or skull replica. Initially tissue depth pegs are attached to the skull, then the facial muscles are sculpted following anatomical standards and finally soft tissues and skin are added and aged appropriately to create a finished depiction. Image provided by © Ludo Vermeulen.

Read more about 3D manual method of facial depiction from skeletal remains

Technological advances - Laser scans

Laser scanners and clinical imaging (CT, MRI) have allowed practitioners to use non-invasive replication techniques to reduce the damage to human remains. 3D prints can be produced quickly without a messy plaster or silicone casting processes, or a digital reconstruction can be produced using specialist computer software. Portable laser scanners allow practitioners to visit the remains on site rather than transporting them. Image provided by Face Lab, Liverpool John Moores University.

Read more about Technological advances - Laser scans

Technological advances - 3D printing

Advances in 3D printing technology has been embraced by practitioners over the past two decades. It is now possible to print a 3D replica of a skull utilising laser scan or clinical image data before the facial depiction process takes place. Alternatively a 3D replica of a finished bust can be printed and then painted, with eyes, wigs and clothing added, if a physical copy of the reconstruction is required. Images provided by PDR Cardiff (www.pdronline.co.uk).

Read more about Technological advances - 3D printing

Assessment of accuracy using living subjects

A blind accuracy study, using CT data collected from a living subject, superimposed the facial depiction with the subject’s face (using the skull for alignment) and the contour map represents the differences. Blue represents good accuracy (<2mm) and the largest error (>5mm) is red/orange. 67% of the facial depiction is blue. Image courtesy of Caroline Wilkinson and Chris Rynn, University of Manchester; Myke Taister and Heather Peters, FBI Academy; Stephen Richmond, Cardiff Dental School.

Read more about Assessment of accuracy using living subjects

Realistic digital faces from archaeology

Examples of highly realistic facial depictions created using 3D digital methods. Left-Right:

Read more about Realistic digital faces from archaeology

Technological advances – Digital facial depiction from skeletal remains (Richard III)

This series of images showcases the digital 3D method of facial depiction from human remains developed by Professor Caroline Wilkinson. This technique follows the Manchester method and employs digital sculpting software and a haptic interface. The image shows the face of King Richard III, built from computed tomography (CT) data of the skeletal remains. © Professor Caroline Wilkinson (University of Dundee) and the Richard III Society.

Read more about Technological advances – Digital facial depiction from skeletal remains (Richard III)

Drawing of Ardashir I's investiture relief at Naqsh-e Rostam in southern Iran (224-242 AD), from R. Ker Porter (1821) Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia... 1817-1820 vol. I, pl.23; Longman & Co., London

The rise of the Sasanians in southern Iran brought the Parthian Empire to an end in 224 AD. On this rock relief, the royal crown is passed from the supreme Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda (right) to the new king Ardashir I (left). While the God’s horse treads on Ahriman (the embodiment of Evil), Ardashir’s tramples his defeated Parthian opponent. The horses touch poignantly. The relief establishes which king has been granted the khvarnah and is favoured by the divine world.

Read more about Drawing of Ardashir I's investiture relief at Naqsh-e Rostam in southern Iran (224-242 AD), from R. Ker Porter (1821) Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia... 1817-1820 vol. I, pl.23; Longman & Co., London

The Yup'ik Homeland from the Air

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta is low-laying braided river system, and has supported the Yup'ik people and their ancestors for millennia. This landscape is dependent on permafrost for its stability, and its topography renders this region highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly coastal erosion and flooding. The Western Rim of Arctic North America has been called the 'miner's canary of climate change'.

© This image is credited to Rick Knecht, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Read more about The Yup'ik Homeland from the Air

A New Day in Quinhagak

The village of Quinhagak lies close to the Bering Sea coast in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The village is home to around 700 people, and is 60 miles from the nearest other village and only accessible by light aircraft.

© This image is credited to Kate Britton, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Read more about A New Day in Quinhagak

Catch of the Day

Quinhagak resident Michael Smith prepares fresh salmon using an uluaq, a traditional Yup’ik tool. Subsistence hunting and fishing remain economically important in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta today, and are a key source of community pride, personal and group identity, and cultural resilience. Contemporary ecosystem disruption, and political and social change, are threatening subsistence activities and, through this, community well-being.

© This image is credited to Renee Ronzone, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Read more about Catch of the Day

A Perfect Storm

Climate change is leading to increasingly unpredictable and unseasonable weather in Western Alaska. Increasing storminess, coupled with melting permafrost, has created ‘a perfect storm’ for rapid coastal erosion – erosion which is now threatening both modern infrastructure and archaeological sites all along the Bering Sea.

© This image is credited to Renee Ronzone, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Read more about A Perfect Storm

A Race Against The Rising Tides

The remains of the Nunalleq archaeological site (AD 1350-1700) cling precariously on the eroding edge of the Bering Sea. Archaeological teams from University of Aberdeen were first invited to investigate the site in 2009, after locals found artefacts eroding onto the beach. Since excavations first began, the coastline here has retreated more than 10 meters. 

© This image is credited to Rick Knecht, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Read more about A Race Against The Rising Tides

Digging through Time

Work at Nunalleq is the first large scale excavation in an area nearly the size of the UK. More than 35,000 artefacts have been recovered from the Nunalleq site so far by archaeologists, and community volunteers. Permafrost and waterlogged soils at the site have preserved an extensive assemblage of organic remains, including wooden artefacts like these bentwood bowls being excavated by Dr. Sven Haakanson.

© This image is credited to Rick Knecht, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Read more about Digging through Time

Spirit Worlds at Nunalleq

Excavations at Nunalleq have also found a number of different masks, some complete like this example, and others fragmented. This mask, found in the summer of 2015, is particularly striking. With ivory insets, a beard and whiskers, it is a transformation piece, transcending animal and human worlds.

© This image is credited to Sven Haakanson, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Read more about Spirit Worlds at Nunalleq

Amazing organics!

Permafrost and waterlogged soils at the site have preserved an extensive assemblage of organic remains, like the basketry shown in this picture. These kinds of materials are rarely found at archaeological sites, as they would normally decay, but Nunalleq has yielded many preserved wooden artefacts, seeds, plants, animal fur, and even cut strands of human hair (the waste from prehistoric haircuts). Laid on the woven grass are a pair of carved ivory earrings found at the site.

© This image is credited to Sven Haakanson, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Read more about Amazing organics!

Archaeological Survey

An important part of the Nunalleq project is identifying new sites that could be under threat. This involves co-learning and knowledge exchange with community partners. Archaeologists are advising local people on how to recognise and record new sites when they are encountered, and local volunteers bring valuable knowledge of the region and the Alaskan wilderness to the research team.

© This image is credited to Rick Knecht, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Read more about Archaeological Survey

Community Workshops

Community workshops are an important part of the field season in Quinhagak. This gives local residents an opportunity to see and experience archaeological finds close-up, and also to discuss them, with archaeologists, and one another. At community workshops, the material culture of Nunalleq is truly integrated into the present. For researchers, community memories of object types and the traditional skill bases of local craftspeople provide valuable new perspectives on the interpretation of the archaeological record at Nunalleq.

© This image is credited to Rick Knecht, and is made available under Creative Commons BY

Read more about Community Workshops

Ceramic Ware Market

Ceramic vessels and hand-painted ornaments are produced in two villages close to Mapusa. Cheap handmade clay ornaments, clay piggy banks (or elephants, chickens and other creatures) and festive items are popular. The unfired clay drinking cups once ubiquitous on India’s railways have now been replaced by plastic – though there is a move to reinstate them. During festivals the ceramic stalls stock thousands of brightly painted bowls which are filled with oil for burning at devotional shrines.

Read more about Ceramic Ware Market

Chilli Stall

5pm. Spice stall. Chillis are a basic ingredient in Goan cuisine: traditionally, masala spices are ground and mixed daily. Although renowned for its spice stalls, most spices in the market are imported from neighbouring Karnataka. Agriculture is in decline in Goa with land left untended or sold for development. Today, work in the Gulf is more lucrative than farming and Shankar, who begins work when he finishes school, does not see working on his family stall as a life-long career.

Read more about Chilli Stall

Cleaning Troop

7.00am. Municipal market cleaners arrive for work. In Corporation saris, Mapusa’s cleaners present a more positive picture of ‘sweepers’ than in much of India. Traditionally regarded as low-esteem employment, refuse collection remains a largely un-automated industry that struggles to deal with the volume of refuse produced. The job is hindered further by the numerous cows roaming the market ‘processing’ waste. More positively, since the Goa-wide ban on plastic bags in 2013 the blight of discarded plastic is gradually improving.

Read more about Cleaning Troop

Drum Seller

12. Drum Seller. During the Ganesh Chaturthi drum sellers appear in the market. The drums are beaten by children as plaster or plastic idols of the god Ganesha are taken to a water body and immersed. A practice that is increasingly causing alarm as the paints used to colour the idols are often toxic and are polluting the waterways.

Read more about Drum Seller

Fish Market

Fish is a traditional staple of Goan cuisine and the basic ingredient for the classic Goan dish, fish curry and rice. Fishermen work at night in small trawlers or – inshore - unpowered canoes. The catch is landed at Siolim, a few miles from Mapusa market. Traditionally, it is the fishermen’s wives who sell the catch. The old fish market, pictured here, had no electric light and at night was romantically lit up by thousands of candles, illuminating the fish in their bamboo baskets.

Read more about Fish Market

Friday Market Day Vendor

8.00am A day vendor arrives with her basket of snake gourds. Every Friday thousands of villagers bring their produce to market. Most are not farmers but bring small quantities of produce grown in their gardens. The research traced their routes into the market. Whilst many are local, others arrive from further afield in the state and even from neighbouring Karnataka or Maharashtra. Goa is a wealthy state with many families receiving money from relatives working in the Gulf and Mapusa Market is a prosperous one and prices are relatively high.

Read more about Friday Market Day Vendor

Ganesh Chaturthi

7pm. The Ganesh Chaturthi – the Chovorth is a hugely popular celebration of the birthday of Lord Ganesha, the elephant headed god. In Maharashtra, Chaturthi was reinvigorated at the end of the 19th century by Tilak who recognised Ganesha’s appeal as the ‘God for Everybody’ and popularised the festival to galvanise nationalistic fervour against British colonial rule. In Catholic Goa where Hindus were persecuted under the Inquisition, Ganesh Chaturthi is as popular as elsewhere in South India and often coincides with Christian festivals.

Read more about Ganesh Chaturthi

Goan chouriço sellers

Noon. Goan chouriço. Goan culture remains strongly influenced by its heritage of nearly 450 years of Portuguese Catholic rule, Goa is unusual in India in that pork is still widely – and openly – consumed. Goan chouriço is distinctive for combining pork with vinegar, chilli and spices to produce a hot and spicy sausage. Goa is also noted for its bread rolls, pão, which are baked daily and delivered to a bakery section of the market close to the chouriço vendors.

Read more about Goan chouriço sellers