The Hajj Mural in Jerusalem

Before my last, summary post, I thought I would go in depth about what I think is the most interesting thing I found on my research, the practice of painting Hajj murals in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. The Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are obliged to make once in their lifetime (finances permitting). Michael Wolfe, in his memoir The Hadj: an American’s pilgrimage to Mecca, describes the Hajj as “an act of obedience, a profession of belief, and the visible expression of a spiritual community. For a majority of Muslims, the hadj is an ultimate goal, a trip of a lifetime” (10). Not only is the Hajj a deeply personal religious experience for the hajji, it is also has great social significance. For example, once someone completes the pilgrimage, he takes the title Haji for the rest of his life.

To celebrate a safe return from this monumental journey and advertise their new social , returning hajis create murals to commemorate their journey. I saw many of these murals in the Muslim quarter, and they all had universal themes, and similar artistic styles. Chief among these motifs were stencils of the Dome of the Rock and the Kaaba, “Allah,” and the shahada (“There is no god but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet”). Here is my favorite Hajj mural:

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The words across the top say “Welcome back, God-kissed.” The flags bear the two halves of the shahada, and the stencil of the Kaaba can be seen in the middle.

Unfortunately, I was not able to find many articles about Hajj murals in Jerusalem, and it appears that most studies of this phenomenon are conducted in Egypt. As I researched for this project, I didn’t know what to expect from the graffiti in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Hajj murals were, to me, such a fascinating aspect of Arab culture in Jerusalem, and I never would have considered them had I not done this project.