A personal account…
While I was in London last week, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff and I went with a group of people to see “Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam”, a feature exhibit that runs until April 15 at the British Museum.
Before the visitor buys his ticket and enters the inner sanctum, he is given a foretaste of the Hajj with this “installation” by Idris Khan in the atrium of the museum:
Which is made up of lots of these:
If that whets your appetite sufficiently, you’ll want to buy a ticket and enter the exhibit itself.
Despite paying £12 to see the Hajj material, we discovered that visitors were not allowed to take photographs. I was sure the museum’s website would have more, but when I got home and took a look, there wasn’t much available.
And, truth be told, there wasn’t really that much to the exhibit. The sitara — the curtain for the door of the Ka’aba, on loan from King Abdul Aziz Public Library in Saudi Arabia — was the prize artifact, and it was impressive indeed. There were numerous other beautiful objects on display, plus a lot of calligraphy, descriptive texts, photos, drawings, engravings, etc.
We saw plenty of images of devotees circling the black cube (counterclockwise) or kneeling to pray, but no contemporaneous materials from the 7th or 8th century. There was no ground plan from the original Mecca as determined by archaeological excavation, nor any artifacts dug up at the site. There’s good reason for that, of course, since no archaeological activity is allowed at any of Islam’s holy sites.