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Read, Watch and Listen

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”

Silver tetradrachm of Phraates III (c. 70-57 BC).

In a rare alliance, Rome and Parthia agreed to overthrow the Armenian Tigranes II. Phraates III, wearing an impressive Parthian tiara decorated with beads, stags and a horn, wanted to place an ally on the Armenian throne. The coin’s reverse shows the enthroned king holding a Veragna bird while Tyche (representing the Parthian city Seleucia-on-the-Tigris) crowns him. In the coin’s inscription Phraates III arrogantly claims to be ‘divine’. He was eventually murdered by his sons for the disastrous Roman alliance.

© Trustees of the British Museum

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”

Landforms

Digital Photograph 2013 

©Rose Ferraby

The land is a rich mixture of the geological and cultural. The sculptural topography is ingrained with the lines and layers of human action. From this, we can begin to unravel some of the many narratives that play through landscape, both now and in the past. 

 

Postcard of the royal tombs at Nimrud Dagh in Commagene (modern south-central Turkey).

Like Armenia, the kingdom of Commagene bordered both Roman and Parthian territories. In 62 BC, Antiochus I Theos (‘the Divine’) commissioned his royal tomb at Nimrud Dagh. His colossal statue stood alongside figures of lions, Veragna birds, claimed ancestors from both ancient Persian kings and from Alexander the Great, as well as gods fused together from Armenian, Iranian and Greek pantheons. This unique theology placed the king amongst gods of all nations, and sent a strong message to neighbouring superpowers.

© Trustees of the British Museum

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”