A journey to Mecca and Medina in 3D

Sunday, November 7th, 2010
Mecca 2
While watching Hollywood and Disney movies in 3D, Turkish photographer Faruk Aksoy felt inspired to apply the cinematic technologies to help him take well-rounded, three-dimensional photographs of sacred sites in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

On November 7, the Photographic Gallery will host Aksoy’s exhibition titled “Mecca and Medina: A Photographic Journey,” featuring pictures in 3D. Visitors will need 3D glasses to absorb the full effect of the photographs.

Aksoy explained that one technique of taking 3D photographs called stereoscopy is “as old a photography itself.”

The illusion is maintained by placing 2x cameras side by side to capture a 3D image.

Around 40 other photographs of pilgrimage rituals and sites are coupled with the 3D photographs.

Some of the photographs are associated with the annual pilgrimage, which this year begins this week, and include the foot journey made from Mecca to the Arafa mountain and the picking and throwing of stones [gamarat] in Mozdalefa and Mena respectively.

In the latter ritual, stones are hurled seven times at each of three stone columns, typified to the pilgrims as Satan.

Another photograph captures the rounds made around the Ka’bah known as tawaf, achieved after a 10 to 30 second exposure time, producing the effect of seeing circular wind current trails.

“I think the pictures make you live the experience,” said Noura Bahgat, the gallery’s curator.

Mecca 4

Aksoy spoke of the difficulty of taking pictures inside the two holy mosques: Haram Al Sharief [Ka’aba] in Mecca, and Masged El Nabawi [the mosque of the prophet] in Medina. He referred to his procurement of access permits issued by the Haramayn Al Sharifayn authorities.

“These places are the holiest places for Muslims and always crowded, full of worshippers. It is so important to not disturb their concentration,” Aksoy said. “That’s why the authorities are paying so much attention to that and not allowing the cameras into the mosques.”

Photographs that are of particular significance to Askoy are those of the sacred black stones [Hajar Al As’wad], which “Muslims believe are from Heaven,” placed at the foot of the Ka’ba, [Bab Al Ka’bah], known as the home of Allah, and Maqaam Ibrahim which contains footstep imprints of the Prophet Abraham.

Aksoy has been taking photographs of Mecca and Medina for the past 28 years.

He said he was at times moved by “looking at the hundreds of thousands of people from the air like a bird, or from a helicopter, and sometimes capturing the tears rolling down their cheeks while praying”.

“Seeing an old man walking all the way from North of India for two years to come to Mecca, to meet with his other brothers and sisters from the four corners of the World, it seems they all heard the same call of Prophet Ibrahim,” Askoy said.

Bahgat said that foreigners who wants to learn more about Muslim culture will be thrilled by the exhibition.

A similarly themed exhibition was displayed by Aksoy in 2005 in Istanbul and was well-received. Askoy is waiting to test visitors’ reactions in the Cairo.


Following an inaugural reception on November 7, Aksoy will lead a workshop to complement the AUC exhibition.

Aksoy has worked on several documentaries including “Inside Mecca” for National Geographic and “The Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime” for the BBC. Some of his Ka’bah photographs are displayed permanently in the Mecca Museum.

He has received several awards including the first prize in 1989 in an international photography contest, “Preserving The Islamic Heritage.”