CAIRO – A few days before performing the Hajj – the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca – the Egyptian faithful headed to markets to shop for essential items for their trek to some of Islam’s most holy sites.
In the corner of a huge textile shop hidden in the alleys of one of Egypt’s main bazaars, Mo’men Mohamed Rashidy delicately stretches two pieces of white cloth designed to meet all the required pilgrimage dress needs for men.
“The pilgrimage clothing must be white. It cannot be seamed or tight-fitting,” Rashidy told Efe.
The white cloth is towel-like, has no seams and can easily be wrapped into a toga.
This makes all pilgrims – rich and poor, tall and short – equal before God.
The Hajj is one of Islam’s five pillars (or one of five requirements that all adherents of Islam must perform in their lives) and Muslims are expected to do the pilgrimage provided they are fit enough and have the financial means to do so.
Every Muslim must bring on their journey to Mecca seamless clothing for men, full-length outer garments (abayas) for women, scissors and fragrance-free soaps.
Manufactures and taylors who outfit the pilgrims before their journey to Saudi Arabia have to know how to adapt the Islamic laws to modern times, leaving behind pins and knots and adding pockets to prevent valuables from loss and theft.
The garment rules for women are that clothes must fully cover their bodies except for their faces and hands.
When packing, pilgrims cannot forget scissors because men shave their head and women cut a lock of their hair after performing rituals.
Merchants expressed regret to Efe regarding the drop in sales due to inflation in Egypt, a country that sent about 80,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia last year.
Pilgrims opt for fragrance-free grooming products because using anything otherwise that contains perfume is not allowed during Hajj.
At the bazaar, merchants with small shops sell soaps with surprising ingredients such as camel or goats milk, papaya and olive oil.
The journey to the holiest city for Muslims begins with the Hajj to the Kaaba, a cube-shaped building in Mecca that is considered by Muslims to be the house of God.
Pilgrims next make their journey to Mount Arafat to pray and throw pebbles at three walls in Mecca’s Mina district; the three walls in Islamic tradition represent the devil.
After the trip to Mount Arafat and Mina district the pilgrims then head back to bid farewell to the Kaaba.