One Thousand Roads to Mecca
The map tells me that Mecca lies forty odd miles from Jidda; I don't know how that can be, for memory tells me it took us a good ten days to reach it. The camels were hooshed down early one afternoon. We were told that we were close to the Holy City, but that we could not go in till morning. The news ran through our hosts like a wild breeze, then an awesome silence fell as each pilgrim paused to realize the great fact. They seemed to all but hold their breath. The silence was broken then by a concerted shout of "Labayk!" That was what it sounded like to me, but I have been told it really has three syllables --"Lab-bay-yak." It is an all-encompassing word of praise and gratitude and submission to the divine will.

That night the molvis prayed and instructed the faithful till nearly dawn. We were told we must not fight amongst ourselves, covet, or wish harm to anyone. We must enter the city clean of heart and clean in action. No oils or scents were to be used at ablutions. Should we break any of these laws, we must sacrifice an extra sheep or goat. Should anyone harm us we must not retaliate, even if it meant our death, always remembering that the ground we walked upon was holy in Allah's sight. I fell asleep at about midnight, and when I woke in the dawning, Ali was still at his devotions on his prayer rug.

Most of our Indian pilgrims were very old; some even tottered on crutches and sticks. We all knew that hundreds of our company would not return again to their homeland, and many of them did not even wish to, for they deemed themselves doubly fortunate if their weary bodies could lie down in eternal rest in this, their Holy of Holies. So very many were weak and ill, coughing their lungs away, but still deep in the rheumy old eyes was the glint of a peace their souls longed for, a gleam of joy at something at last attempted but yet by no means done. For this coming to Mecca was not by a long way the end of their journey; it would not give them the right to wear the green turban of the hajji. The grand culmination would not come for many weeks yet.

A short while after dawn--fasting, of course, [for it was Ramadan!]-- we mounted our camels again. As the light grew stronger, we were descending what looked like a steep basin. The mountains ringed the depression in the earth all around; and then as the sun rose, we saw the city far down below us--saw right into the heart of the Great Mosque itself. Racing up the mountainsides were the houses of Mecca. We caught glimpses as we went down of the large black Ka'ba, the five minarets with their onion domes, and the gilded dome over the Zamzam waters.

-- Excerpt of Australian revert, Winifred Stegar's account of Hajj in 1927 from One Thousand Roads to Mecca - edited by Michael Wolfe, p. 362.