British Museum celebrates success of Hajj exhibition

Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam has reached the target visitor figure for the exhibition receiving over 80,000 visitors in just over seven weeks. The exhibition opened on 26 January and runs until 15 April. The exhibition has been seen by a diverse audience including many family visitors (children under the age of 16 can access the exhibition for free). With only four weeks left the Museum has extended the opening hours of the exhibition on Saturday and Sunday evenings to release more tickets and meet demand as time slots are frequently sold out.

Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam is the first major exhibition dedicated to the Hajj; the pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which is central to the Muslim faith. The exhibition examines the significance of the Hajj as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, exploring its importance for Muslims and looking at how this spiritual journey has evolved throughout history. It has brought together a wealth of objects from a number of different collections which reveal the enduring impact of Hajj across the globe and the centuries. Loans include significant material from major public and private collections in the UK and around the world, among them, the British Library, the King Abdulaziz Public Library and the Khalili Family Trust. Together these objects evoke and document the long and perilous journey associated with the pilgrimage, gifts offered to the sanctuary as acts of devotion and the souvenirs that are brought back from Hajj. They include archaeological material, manuscripts, textiles, historic photographs and contemporary art.

This exhibition concludes the British Museum’s series of three exhibitions focused on spiritual journeys.

Professor Nasser D. Khalili, on behalf of the Khalili Family Trust, has gifted to the British Museum two fine textiles to mark the occasion of this landmark exhibition.

The Khalili Collection is fortunate, after the Topkapi Saray in Istanbul, to own the largest group of textiles and objects relating to Mecca and Medina in the world.

The two sitarahs, or curtains, were made for the mosque of the Prophet in Medina, the earliest of which was commissioned by Sultan Selim Khan (Selim III) and is dated 1204 AH (1789-90 AD). The second curtain was possibly made for the mihrab, the niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of the Ka’bah in Mecca, and was commissioned by Sultan Mahmud II who reigned from 1808 to 1839 AD. The sitarahs will form part of the British Museum’s permanent collection.

In partnership with King Abdulaziz Public Library, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

HSBC Amanah has supported the exhibition’s international reach outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Hajj certificate (detail). 17th–18th century AD. Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art (Khalili Family Trust).

Hajj certificate (detail). 17th–18th century AD. Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art (Khalili Family Trust).


For further information or images please contact the Press Office on +44 (0)20 7323 8394 / 8583 or

Tickets are now on sale. Book tickets:  or +44 (0)20 7323 8181

Notes to editors

  • Opening hours 10.00-17.30 Saturday to Thursday, 10.00-20.30 Fridays
  • PLEASE NOTE, the British Museum and Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam will be open on Good Friday 6 April until 17.30 (last entry 16.10)
  • Extended hours until 20.30 (last entry 19.10): Sunday 25 March, Saturday 31 March, Sunday 1 April, Saturday 7 April, Sunday 8 April, Saturday 14, April. and Sunday 15 April.
  • The exhibition runs between 26 January and 15 April 2012.
  • Admission charge £12, children under 16 and Members free plus a range of concessions including group rates. Tickets are available to book through the box office by calling 020 7323 8181 or online at A full public programme accompanies the exhibition. More information is available from the press office.
  • An accompanying catalogue has been published by British Museum Press: Hajj; journey to the heart of Islam, is edited by Venetia Porter and features contributions by leading scholars, paperback £25.
  • The King Abdulaziz Public Library is a philanthropic institution which was established in 1985. It is supported by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah who is Chairman of its Board of Directors. The library seeks to disseminate knowledge and culture in Saudi society, with emphasis being placed on its Islamic and Arabic heritage and the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its founder, King Abdulaziz. The Library is pleased to be coordinating the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s participation in this unique exhibition about the Hajj at the British Museum.  
  • HSBC Cultural Exchange is the bank’s global cultural sponsorship programme. As an international bank working with clients across more than 80 countries worldwide, HSBC encourages the exchange of ideas across different cultures to generate and strengthen international business relationships. Since its launch in 2008 HSBC’s Cultural Exchange programme has embraced culture in its widest sense in more than 25 countries – from fine art to cuisine, from language and literature to dance, street arts and all forms of music.  
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council award. The British Museum has been awarded an AHRC grant to support the research for the exhibition and accompanying publication. The outcomes will include an academic conference on Hajj and a collaboration with the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Leeds to explore British Muslim communities' experiences of Hajj.