During the season of Ramadan, when the first revelation of the Qur'an is commemorated, more than a million visitors journey to Mecca's Great Mosque. Despite Islam's position as a powerful religion, boasting one quarter of the world's population as its followers, many aspects of Muslim thought and belief remain an enigma to non-Muslims—until now.While the cities of Mecca and Medina are restricted to Muslims, and photographing the sites requires special—and rarely given—permission from the Saudi Arabian authorities, Mecca the Blessed, Medina the Radiant is an unprecedented exploration of Islam's most holy cities and the great pilgrimage, mostly presented in full-color, never-before-seen photographs. A remarkable achievement, Japanese photographer Ali Kazuyoshi Namachi garnered the full support of the Saudi Arabian authorities to capture over 140 stunning and dynamic images, providing an opening to the mystical places and scenes of Islam. From breathtaking aerial photographs of the Arabian terrain, to vistas of teeming crowds of worshippers surrounding the Kacbah, Mecca's sacred center and the fulcrum toward which they face in prayer five times daily, to intense portraits of faithful Muslims in prayer, to the magnificent architecture reflecting the faith of the believers, this book allows both Muslims and those unfamiliar with the Islamic faith complete access to the holiest sites of one of the world's major religions. A selection of archival illustrations are also included to supplement the photographs.Also featured is an essay about the spiritual and historical signficance of both Mecca and Medina as well as a discussion of the meaning and symbolic content of the hajj—the Muslim annual pilgrimage to Mecca—by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, one of the most highly regarded scholars of Islam.