The annual pilgrimage to Mecca (also known as The Hajj) is a religious duty, the fifth principle of Islam that every able-bodied Muslim (of every ethnic group, colour, social status, and culture) who can afford to do so, must gather together in the Saudia Arabian city of Mecca, and stand before the Kaaba praising Allah together.
It is a ritual demonstration of the solidarity of the Muslim people, and their submission to God. It is designed to promote the bonds of Islamic brotherhood and sisterhood, by showing that everyone is equal in the eyes of Allah. It strips away all markers of social status, wealth, and pride, making Muslims feel the real importance of life here on earth, and the afterlife. In the Hajj all are truly equal.
The Pilgrimage to Mecca occurs in the month of Dhul Hijjah which is the twelfth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The Hajjis (or pilgrims) wear simple white clothes called Ihram, and they perform acts of worship as they renew their sense of purpose in the world. They also perform a number of rituals including: (i) walking counter-clockwise seven times about the Ka’bah – the cube-shaped building which acts as the Muslim direction of prayer, (ii) kissing the Black Stone in the corner of the Kaaba, (iii) running back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, (iv) drinking from the Zamzam Well, (v) visiting the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil, (vi) throwing stones in a ritual Stoning of the Devil. The pilgrims then shave their heads, perform a ritual of animal sacrifice, and celebrate the four day global festival of Eid al-Adha.
In 2009, over two million Muslims converged on Mecca for the Hajj.