Inside the Middle East
December 7, 2008
Posted: 1705 GMT


–By CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

We left the hotel in Mecca to film what we call a “walk and talk”.  We decided to leave in the afternoon in order not to be stuck among millions of pilgrims especially during the call to prayer


CNN’s reporter Arwa Damon , CNN’s Cameraman Chevan Rayson and I – along with our Saudi minder - walked among hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across the world to perform the Hajj.


We were only few hundreds meters away from the Kaaba, the first and  holiest site for Muslims.  We met many pilgrims during our tour who were so excited and happy to be here …many of whom wanted to be on camera to show to their  relatives and friends that they are here  performing Hajj.


In Mecca its easy for us to find any nationality for an interview but it is impossible to find someone from a different religion.


It is incredible feeling to see millions of people who are walking next to each other in a small area for one purpose only, which is performing the Hajj. 


We walked past the holy mosque to an outdoor market filled with thousands of pilgrims and every store was packed with shoppers. It is really difficult to move through them. Sometimes  we decide to stop filming because hundreds of pilgrims gather around us that make our work impossible. Other times we have to stop filming because religious police as us to move on to avoid a crowd gathering.


After we got what we needed for our story we decided to go back to the hotel but this time we were running literally – to make it back before the call to prayer.  Otherwise we could  we could be stuck for at least an hour in the middle of millions of pilgrims ….we made it this time .


Around 7 p.m. we decided to grab dinner outside but we totally forgot about the night prayers. We were so hungry after a long day of working. We bought some food and we decided to go back to hotel to finish the “walk and talk story”.

We were only a few meters away from the hotel and technically only a few minutes from our rooms. But suddenly the Muezzin called for the night prayers: in only few seconds, hundreds of pilgrims stopped to pray and we were stuck. 


We waited in a small corner until the worshippers finished their prayers.  We sat on the ground eating some of the food  we'd bought earlier, exchanging amused looks and smiling at our predicament.   

Filed under: Hajj

Share this on:
Beny   December 7th, 2008 6:01 pm ET

Great article. Especially liked the last photo, notice the amount of those people!

Kinda reminds me of the song by Heather Dale- The Road to Santiago

Nice to see something pleasant here for a change.

I remember talking to an Muslim professor once, when suddenly he checked his watch, clasped a hand to his forehead, got down on the carpet and started praying. After a while he got up and continued discussing chromatography charts as if nothing happened.

Hope   December 7th, 2008 6:36 pm ET

Must have been a great spiritual journey...Thanks for the link Beny..great song!

Hope   December 7th, 2008 6:38 pm ET

Must have been a great spiritual journey...Thanks for the link Beny..great song!

Solomon   December 7th, 2008 7:28 pm ET

this is the spirit of Islam.over three million Pilgrims from all corners of the world chanting at the peak of the haj to beg God's forgiveness, chanting(O God, I am answering your call!' in one language.Labaika allahuma Labaik )a Muslim should make the pilgrimage once in his life time if he is able to do so.

all colours all cultures all languages standing side by side the way human brother hood should be.
who ever is doing bad things in the name of Islam is not a Muslim.
the same can be said about Christianity and Judaism.

The Quran said in 49.13
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)

the Quran here did not say the most honoured amongst you in the sight of God is a Muslim. he can be a Christian or a Jew.

Debs   December 7th, 2008 8:53 pm ET

This a an amazing insight to Islam, It is really good to see people celebrating and worshiping in such a deeply spiritual way. We could all learn from this. May blessing of Allah be upon them and all of the worlds people.

Salam and Shalom to all

Tom Distad   December 8th, 2008 7:26 pm ET

As I watched the video/article on TV there was a astatement (I have to paraphrase) across the screen that said " The US seems to almost always take the Isreali side against the Muslim side, regardless of the 'cause'". It was something along those lines, that indicated to me that the US is biased against Muslimss or biased in favor of Isreal. As a secularist I cannot say either way if this is true. I have no conscious bias. But can someone tell me, when was the last time an extremist Isreali blew up a US barracks, or a Spanish train station, or a luxury hotel? I'm serious – I really don't know. Have we been shielded from information about radical Jews? Does their God also rewatd those who kill heretics or infidels?
Seculalry curious.

Franky   December 8th, 2008 8:16 pm ET

Now that's cool...

henna saeed   December 8th, 2008 8:28 pm ET

It is the most incredible sight in the whole world, just to see the sight of 3 million people coming together on one land, of different cultures, languages and color..having nothing in common except their faith and thei rlove for Allah and his Prophet PBUH. All chanting Laybayk. Allah Huma Laybayk. ( God I am here and ready to serve you).

hatred   December 9th, 2008 1:02 am ET

Everyone looks really angry in that picture.

Hope   December 9th, 2008 3:18 am ET

Tom Distad, "But can someone tell me, when was the last time an extremist Israeli blew up a US barracks, or a Spanish train station, or a luxury hotel? I’m serious – I really don’t know. Have we been shielded from information about radical Jews?"

Yes, you have been shielded, assuming you live here in the U.S. Here's an itty bitty taste of what your friends are capable of doing to innocent civilians..check it out, knock yourself out!

Dennis   December 9th, 2008 4:03 am ET

I hope that everyone who, is in Saudi Arabia...Will have a enjoyable and learning experience time, during the Hajj.

miriam   December 9th, 2008 6:00 am ET

That picture is upsetting. However, assuming it is what is claimed, it was from a war zone. The Israeli army did not deliberately target the baby or its family. The targets were Hizbollah terrorists firing missiles at Israel from civilian areas, gardens, schools etc and storing equipment in homes. In most cases, Israel warned civilians to evacuate such homes but the cowards who used these people as human shields prefered to make them stay , then to be able to produce such pictures and declare them shaheeds. Leaders in war who respect human life do not publicize photos of dead bodies, whatever the message they wish to convey. Instead the body is respected and treated with dignity.
Tom, no one is hiding anything from you. You are correct in your observations. If a Jew were to commit such a terrible act, heaven forbid, you'd be sure to hear about it. Such claims of Jewish/Israeli crimes have made headlines before and then proven to be false. Anti-semitism for thousands of years has been based on such false accusations.

Nustra   December 9th, 2008 10:35 am ET

kind of shocked when i heard that the stoning ritual done in the Haj originated from the story of Abraham...the same Abraham that is the ancestor of the Jews.
then why the struggle between Jews and Muslims if they have common history, am kind of lost here.

but its really good and colourful to see all these people come together for a common purpose of worship.

and here, muslims, unlike other gatherings, won't have to worry about suicide bombers.

Hope   December 9th, 2008 4:23 pm ET

yes,'s more propaganda for you...

images of war should be publicized, We need to see first hand the wrath of your super-military power on defenseless civilians. Most of the dead in Lebanon had no place to go, whether they were warned or not...You can justify your own terror on humanity any way you want, if that's what it takes to make you sleep better at nigh!....the fact remains, your planes & bombs slaughtered over 1000+ innocent Lebanese civilians..

M Ariely   December 9th, 2008 5:20 pm ET

I propose to honore the religious covarage
Dont comment political issues here
You have planty of place to cover the political issues

Politics and religion should be kept separately

Debs   December 9th, 2008 5:44 pm ET


I have been asking the same question, Muslims Christians and Jews all look to the same God. We should be looking at our commonalities than the differences that seperate and divide us..

Salam and Shalom to all.

Debs   December 9th, 2008 6:43 pm ET

M Ariely,

Thank you for reminding everyone.

Salam and Shalom to all

Hope   December 9th, 2008 7:18 pm ET

I agree whole heartedly...

this should have been left to honor the spiritual pilgrims, and not be tainted with politics. Hala, you are welcome to delete my 2 previous posts, they were only a feed back to some ludicrous comments i read..thanks..

Solomon   December 11th, 2008 12:09 am ET

"kind of shocked when i heard that the stoning ritual done in the Haj originated from the story of Abraham…the same Abraham that is the ancestor of the Jews.
then why the struggle between Jews and Muslims if they have common history, am kind of lost here."

Muslim do respect Judaism as a matter of facts Moses was mentioned in the Quran over one hundred times.Muslims consider Moses and Jesus and Abraham prophets of Islam Just like Muhammad peace be upon all of them.
it is not between Judaism and Islam it is between Zionizm mostly Jews, and the Palestinians Muslims and Christians.

these are the prophets of God that are mentioned in the holy Quran

# Nuh (Noah)
# Hud
# Saleh
# Ibrahim (Abraham)
# Isma'il (Ishmael)
# Ishaq (Isaac)
# Lut (Lot)
# Ya'qub (Jacob)
# Yousef (Joseph)
# Shu'aib
# Ayyub (Job)
# Musa (Moses)
# Harun (Aaron)
# Dhu'l-kifl (Ezekiel)
# Dawud (David)
# Sulaiman (Solomon)
# Ilias (Elias)
# Al-Yasa (Elisha)
# Yunus (Jonah)
# Zakariyya (Zechariah)
# Yahya (John)
# 'Isa (Jesus)
# Muhammad

Solomon   December 11th, 2008 12:18 am ET

Nustra I am sorry there are three more.

# Adam
# Idris (Enoch)
# Nuh (Noah)

Hajj   October 9th, 2009 2:16 pm ET

This is absolutely fascinate.


subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

Welcome to the Inside the Middle East blog where CNN's journalists post news, views and video from across the region. This is also a place where you can start the discussion so please keep your comments coming. We highlight not only current news stories but also anecdotes and issues that don't always make the top of the headlines.

Read more about CNN's special reports policy

Watch the show

Inside the Middle East airs the first week of every month on the following days and times:

Wednesday: 0930, 1630,
Saturday: 0430, 1830,
Sunday: 1130

(All times GMT)