These photographs of the Muslim holy cities Mecca and Medina, taken by a Japanese convert, Ali Kazuyoshi Nomachi, are something new for most Westerners, and perhaps even for many Muslims. Non-Muslims are never allowed into Mecca, and it is almost unheard-of for religious and government leaders to allow such pictures to be taken. Most of these images were shot during the holy month of Ramadan, when many faithful are in Mecca and Medina on pilgrimage.
Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, has contributed an essay explaining the history and significance of the two cities. "Mecca and its twin city Medina flourish as the heart and sacred Center of the Islamic universe and will continue to do so as long as there are men and women who accept the truth of Lailaha illa'Llah and Muhammadun rasul Allah," he writes.
Nomachi has worked for National Geographic and Life, and his pictures have the information-packed clarity one might expect. There are fascinating images: literally hundreds of thousands of white-robed believers circling the Ka'bah, Mecca's sacred center; men ritually shaving one another's heads; tired families fasting; small children praying. Nomachi's pictures are oddly cool, but they convey the all-encompassing nature of the faith. Mecca the Blessed, Medina the Radiant will be especially thrilling to those Muslims still planning their pilgrimage. [via]