I visited the Hajj exhibition at the British Museum today. The queue to buy the ticket looked worse than it was. The queue to enter the exhibition wasn’t so bad but I was a bit frustrated that everyone thought that they needed to queue for every exhibit. I skipped a few at the front and browsed around. A good exhibition but a lot of it was writing and photographs. They told the history and the story of the Hajj which is interesting but I like to see some exhibits and there were a reasonable number of these. Mostly tapestries but also some clothes worn during Hajj and a lot of old books. The tapestries were pretty amazing and many featured Arabic writing. It would have been nice to have some translations of this. The numbers of people made it difficult to get a good look at the explanatory text for each item but I guess I’m a bit impatient with this sort of thing. I like to hop from one thing to another and I hate queuing.
In fact queueing seemed to be a central theme to this exhibition in more ways than one. One of the key features of the Hajj is that each pilgrim walks 7 times around a large black stone cube known as the Kaaba at the Masjid al-Haram. Thousands of pilgrims attend and many photos showed the swirling people. As a keen photographer, these images piqued my interest. Many were shot at night, apparently under floodlights, and showed thousands of people stationary amongst a blur of others. I speculate that a fairly unique part of this ritual is that the people are either in motion, walking in the same direction, or they are absolutely still in meditation or prayer and that this is a great photographic opportunity.
The part or the exhibition that I liked best was the modern Islamic art which would not have looked out of place in Tate Modern. A good exhibition but I think the lesson is to rent one of those talking boxes which will explain stuff as you wander around.
The Hajj exhibition is open now at The British Museum on Great Russell Street in London and runs to the 15th April 2012. Entrance to the museum is free though they request a donation of £5. The Hajj exhibition tickets are £12. The nearest tube stations is Tottenham Court Road12.