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Muzdalifah Night

Watercolour & gouache on paper
Triptych- 51.1 x 37.5"(130x95.5 cm) each

The fifth pillar of Islam, the Hajj pilgrimage, promises to cleanse the believer of all sins. When it was time for me to fulfill this ritual, in 1990, I was terrified. My fear was based on my parents’ warnings, and the media coverage. Each year, I watched footage of millions of people all rushing towards one spot at the same time, pushing and shoving and trampling each other. Fires eating through hundreds of tents, sectarian conflicts that triggered deadly stampedes, and simply getting lost in the crowds were all unsettling thoughts. To my utter relief and astonishment, the actual experience was peaceful.

Contrary to my expectations, the women I was traveling with and the ones I encountered did not pass the nights in silent prayer. Instead they engaged in lively conversations and drank tea under the stars. My friends happily posed for me, you can hardly see their faces, but I know who is who.