Mecca The Blessed Medina The Radiant The Holiest Cities of Islam
Photographs by Ali Kazuyoshi Nomachi
Essay by Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Published in 2003
I collect a lot of books on photography, both instructional as well as collections of photos and this is one of my favourite. There is just something that is phenomenally awe inspiring about these 2 cities. For the billions of Moslems around the world, these 2 cities represents Islam itself and the images in this book, as amazing as they are, only captures a fraction of the essence of these 2 cities but there are no other image like them in the world.
Ali Kazuyoshi Nomachi is a Japanese photographer who converted to Islam and holds the very enviable distinction to have been the only photographer granted permission by the Meccan authorities to take pictures within Mecca. Many have tried before but all have been rejected.
What struck me most about Ali’s images is that it manages to capture just the enormity of the goings on in Mecca especially during the Haj period. There are many images taken from high above with telephoto lenses set at long exposure, which captures the Tawaf (where pilgrims circumambulate the Kaa’ba) and the prayers (imagine an image of 2 million people in prayer) in a way never before captured. These are my favourite shots.
There are also a lot of photojournalistic shots taken during the various acts during the Haj. The Haj is a highly emotional experience, which results in dramatic images.
I do have some ambition of repeating this feat by Ali and perhaps seek permission not so much of the Haj (which would be nice is allowed) but of every day life in these 2 cities. To show people this is what Islam is all about. Not the violence or the wars but the love and devotion to God and to each other.
This book is highly recommended.