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Special Hajj coverage on CNNI

Zain Verjee
The Hajj

(CNN) -- From Jakarta to New York and Baghdad to Paris, more than 2 million Muslims have been taking part in this year's pilgrimage to Mecca.

For the eighth consecutive year, CNN International presents exclusive images and stories from the Hajj, including a look at pilgrims making their way from these cities.

Hosted by award-winning journalist, Zain Verjee, CNN International offers special coverage through January 30.

Through the eyes of the pilgrims, CNN International will feature several personal perspectives of the sacred journey.

This year, CNN will provide a unique behind-the-scenes look at the pilgrimage of a three-generation Iraqi-American family who are given a camcorder to closely document their experiences.

U.S.-based Imam Qazwini, a Shia cleric, whose 14 family members were executed under Saddam Hussein, is making this pilgrimage with his 18-year old son. The two will meet up with their Iraqi grandfather in Medina.

"By allowing a camera on their journey, this family is letting the world bear witness to something very personal and we are pleased to be able to give our viewers such a distinct perspective of the Hajj," said Rena Golden, senior vice president, CNN International.

"What's happening in the Middle East and the Islamic world are important issues for CNN viewers. Therefore, providing special insight into the Hajj is essential," Golden said.

Additionally, CNN International will track a young couple's path of pilgrimage from New York. Freelance journalist Dilshad Ali and her husband will be traveling to the Hajj for the first time this year, a journey inspired by both a personal near-death illness and by their son's recent diagnosis of autism.

The special coverage will culminate in a half-hour program, "Hajj: The Path of Pilgrims," as Verjee will look back on the events of the week through the experiences of these pilgrims.

The program premiered Sunday, January 23.

CNN International also presents live coverage of the Hajj pilgrimage as Verjee travels from Jeddah to Mecca, where California-based Imam Tahir Anwar joins her for analysis on the ground.

As part of her reporting, Verjee also visits the Iraqi "welcome center" tent at the Hajj to take the pulse of these pilgrims in the light of the upcoming elections and an increase in Hajj travel visas for Iraqi nationals.

In addition to highlighting the spiritual rejuvenation and the ritual elements, Verjee also looks at the planning required to travel to the Hajj through the eyes of a tour guide leading 1,200 people to Mecca.

She reviews the logistics of the Hajj and recounts the months of preparation undertaken by the Saudi government as it prepares to cope with the major task of facilitating millions of people in a concentrated space. From the simple need of housing to the protection of religious sites, she also examines the security concerns for Saudi Arabia.

Additional CNN correspondents contributing to this special coverage include Aneesh Raman, with a report from Thailand profiling a village leader who plans to participate in the Hajj; Atika Shubert, with an account of how the tsunami has affected Indonesia's large contingent of pilgrims; and Jim Bittermann in Paris, with a look at how difficult it is to be a Muslim in secular France.

Hajj: The Path of Pilgrims - Program Times

Saturday, January 29

  • 7:30 a.m. ET, 2030 HKT
  • 11:30 a.m. ET, 1330 Buenos Aires, 1730 CET, 0030 HKT (Sunday January 30)
  • 5:30 p.m. ET, 1930 Buenos Aires, 2330 CET
  • Sunday, January 30

  • 9:30 a.m. ET, 2230 HKT

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