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When I was eight years old my family and I went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. We took my mother’s car, and completed a journey that many millions of pilgrims have done through the ages, in the desert of Saudi Arabia. This is the story of my small Egyptian nuclear family, visiting for the first time Hijaz.

For a text version of this piece and related illustrations, please click here.






We were driving from Kuwait, where my small Egyptian family was living at the time, to Mecca, crossing the border into Saudi Arabia.

We were driving from Kuwait, where my small Egyptian family was living at the time, to Mecca, crossing the border into Saudi Arabia.




My twin and I were eight years old.

My twin and I were eight years old.




The hood ornament—a leaping, angularly-rendered impala—was made of polished chrome, and shone brightly under the relentless Kuwaiti sun.

The hood ornament—a leaping, angularly-rendered impala—was made of polished chrome, and shone brightly under the relentless Kuwaiti sun.




To me my father’s car was unimpeachable.

To me my father’s car was unimpeachable.




My mother’s car was graceless, though it took us loyally to school on the days my father’s car wouldn’t start.

My mother’s car was graceless, though it took us loyally to school on the days my father’s car wouldn’t start.




The desert of Saudi Arabia to my eyes seemed cut from the same cloth as the desert of Kuwait.

The desert of Saudi Arabia to my eyes seemed cut from the same cloth as the desert of Kuwait.




The cheese came in pleasingly uniform, sharp-edged, foil-wrapped squares, which were neatly lined up in a cardboard box with a tray that slid out.

The cheese came in pleasingly uniform, sharp-edged, foil-wrapped squares, which were neatly lined up in a cardboard box with a tray that slid out.




It was as if giants had built the city.

It was as if giants had built the city.




It is well known that many get trampled to death in these pilgrimages; they call them martyrs of the Hajj.

It is well known that many get trampled to death in these pilgrimages; they call them martyrs of the Hajj.




The women among the worshippers circled the Kaaba from a larger circumference, staying farther away from it to avoid the impropriety of touching men.

The women among the worshippers circled the Kaaba from a larger circumference, staying farther away from it to avoid the impropriety of touching men.




The meteorite was encased in shiny metal, wrapped around the small piece of space rock.

The meteorite was encased in shiny metal, wrapped around the small piece of space rock.




I reached out and touched the black rock, inhaling sharply at first contact, expectant.

I reached out and touched the black rock, inhaling sharply at first contact, expectant.


Read the text version of this piece alongside the above illustrations.


Mariam Bazeed

Illustrations by Mariah Scee

Mariam Bazeed is an Egyptian writer, editor, and literary translator living in Brooklyn.

Mariah Irene Aleonor Ruth Cameron Scee is an artist, illustrator, and outdoor junkie based out of Seattle, Washington. She holds a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and is currently making paintings inspired by geology. Information on her art and upcoming adventures can be found at www.mariahscee.com.

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