Source: The Economist:
THIS week Muslims from all over the world are in Saudi Arabia for the haj. The Koran says that all Islam’s followers who are physically and financially able should make the annual pilgrimage—one of five pillars of Islam—once in their lifetime. Pilgrims travel to Mecca to carry out a set of rituals that are associated with both the Prophet Muhammad and Abraham before him. These include circling anti-clockwise seven times around the Kaaba, the black cube that Muslims face to pray wherever they are in the world, and drinking from the Zamzam well, said to have sprung into being when Abraham’s wife, Hagar, was desperately seeking water for their son Ismail. This year many who had hoped to make the pilgrimage have been disappointed. Why?