A Film by Ahmed Mater
From the Desert of Pharan series
In 2013, Ahmed was given permission by the Saudi Arabian government to film the holy city of Mecca, the grand mosque Al Masjid al-Haram, which houses the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, and its environs.
Over the course of the past decade, Mecca has undergone an unprecedented urban transformation, with massive extensions of the mosque and mass gentrification of historic areas of the city. This is due in part to the increasing number of people performing the annual Hajj, or pilgrimage.
This film begins on the outskirts of the city, Ahmed explains the scene: "Heading southeast out of Mecca, I encountered ceremonial drummers at a traditional wedding. Following the ebb and flow of one drummer's trance-like state, I remembered ominous tales of jinn.
I remember the writing of the explorer Harry St. John Philby, who recounted in his 1922 work 'Heart of Arabia: A Record of Travel & Exploration': "the restless spirits that live in the desert near the dead city of Jahura... midway between the borders of Hejaz and Oman. There, the sounds of drumming and moaning are regularly heard at night by passing travellers, of course, attributed to jinns or ghosts, persons of weak intellect having even been known to lose their reason."