National Geographic is known, among other things, for its exceptional photography and this case of picture from 1953 is no different. These photos first appeared in the magazine 65 years ago and have recently been re-discovered, along with the touching story about how they even came about. You see, these memorable pictures weren’t actually taken by one of National Geographic’s staff photographers, nor by one of their freelancers. It was actually a young Pakistani pilgrim by the name of Abdul Ghafour Sheikh who took these pictures when he went for pilgrimage to the Holy City of Makkah in 1953 (1372 Hijri).
1. Many pilgrims would travel to Makkah via a ferry or a ship because over 60 years ago, commercial air travel was still in its early stages. It was both very expensive and not as widely available as it is today.
2. For those who could afford it, they would embark on their journey on board small planes from nearby countries.
3. Like today, coaches and buses would be used to transport pilgrims from place to place.
4. Muslims are only allowed to enter the places to perform Hajj.
5. Homes and hotels can be seen outside of the sacred mosque’s perimeter. Much of these historical buildings have had to be demolished to make way for the mosque’s expansion.
6. A busy street in Makkah. An Ottoman style minaret can be seen.
7. One of the entrances to the Masjid Al Haram.
8. Worshipers outside the Mosque’s entrance.
9. The Ka’ba and the Mataf area. There were no other floors back then.
10. A close up view of the Ka’ba.
11. Worshipers were able to enter the Ka’ba.
12. Performing Tawaf was easier as it was not as crowded as it is today.
13. Markets and stalls near the Masjid Al Haram.
14. A market scene
15. Smoking shisha
16. Horse and carriage were used as a means of transport.
17. Pilgrims were able to choose the animals they wanted for Udhiyyah/Qurbani.
18. Pilgrims would keep their livestock with them during their Hajj.
19. Donkeys were used to transport carcasses of sacrificial animals.
20. In Mina, food would be cooked using fire and stove.
21. Tents can be seen pitched in Arafah next to mount Arafah.
22. Pilgrims pray near their camels.
23. The Jamarat used to be small pillars, which would be stoned symbolizing stoning of the devil.
24. A pilgrim is having his hair shaved.
In 1953, Ghafour Sheikh was studying business management at Harvard University in the USA. He decided to perform Hajj but prior to his departure, he visited the National Geographic headquarters in Washington DC and asked the magazine to provide him with a camera to document the proceedings of his journey to Saudi Arabia. Upon Ghafour Sheikh’s request, the magazine smartly outfitted him with two small cameras that he then used to capture these stunning images that have since become some of the most memorable historical photos that exist of Hajj.
All photos are copyright of National Geographic Magazine.