This week, approximately three million people are heading to Mecca for the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage that is also one of the five pillars of Islam. For the past three years, artist Ahmed Mater has traveled to Mecca to photograph the monumental transformation of the area around the Masjid al-Haram ("Sacred Mosque"), which includes the construction of the Abraj al-Bait Towers, a hotel complex and clock tower that is now the second-tallest building in the world. In the wake of these developments, Mater reflects on what today's Mecca represents to him. His photos and text offer a poetic and personal glimpse of his experience, as well as a rare inside perspective for non-Muslims, who are not permitted to enter the city. An extended version of his journey to Mecca can be found at Creative Time Reports.
This photo is taken 500 meters from the Kaaba, which is at the center of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. When I arrive from the coastal city of Jeddah, I leave my car near this spot and walk from here to the mosque. This billboard is like an advertisement for the Mecca skyline to come. It also covers up the construction going on at Omar Mountain, which is named after the second sahabi ("companion") of the Prophet Mohammad.
Today, there is a popular Saudi TV show about the seventh-century Caliph, called Omar.