A major exhibition on the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that every Muslim must make, is due to open in Abu Dhabi this autumn, focusing on the challenges faced by Emirati pilgrims who make their way to Islam’s holiest site. The show, titled Hajj: Memories of a Journey (opens 20 September), will be held in the grounds of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and is due to open 20 September.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority is backing the exhibition. Its spokeswoman says: “The exhibition’s curatorial view on the sacred pilgrimage is through the lens of Sheikh Zayed’s personal Hajj in 1979.” The late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, considered the founding father of the United Arab Emirates, undertook the Hajj wearing the simple white robes worn by pilgrims.
Silk hanging panel from the sanctuary in Mecca (around 1903-04) (Museum of Islamic Civilisation)
Objects will be drawn from major public and private collections in both the UAE and abroad. “It will begin with an exploration of the historical progression of the arrival and adoption of Islam in Arabia and evidence of the earliest centuries of Islamic practice, through key studies and archaeological sites in the United Arab Emirates,” the organisers say. Oral histories, early photographs and archival materials reflect the experiences of Emirati pilgrims on the Hajj, while a range of Kiswah— the cloth that covers the Kaaba shrine in Mecca—dating from different periods, will also be shown.
The show follows a critically acclaimed exhibition on the Hajj held at the British Museum, London, in 2012 (Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam). A spokeswoman for the British Museum says that the new exhibition was inspired by the London show.
The General Authority for Statistics department in Saudi Arabia reported that last year that the Hajj received 1.9 million pilgrims, with 1.3 million pilgrims coming from abroad. UPDATE
: this article was amended on 20 April to reflect new information from the British Museum.